All across the country, horse owners are wrinkling up their noses, putting on their brave faces, and pulling out their horse blankets from storage.
Whether you fold them neatly into tack trunks (and if you do, we commend you!) or stuff them into trash bags and knot them up, hoping for the best, that fateful moment when you realize you actually have to get those blankets out is always fraught with nervousness: what if they smell, what if there were moths, what if there’s a spider?
Once you’ve brushed the dust off your face and stopped screaming — it was only a little spider, after all, barely the size of your hand — you can start inspecting your blanket. Did you forget to repair that hole last year? How did the sheer quantity of baling twine holding this thing together slip your mind? It isn’t possible that you didn’t have the whole thing cleaned, is it?
Horse blankets are usually a sizable investment: a very expensive expanse of high-quality cloth which we then strap onto an animal that amuses itself by rolling in mud and having fights with other animals wearing steel shoes. And then we end up with a damaged, dirty mess which is so unpleasant to consider washing or repairing that we often forget just how much we spent on it, and just how much effort we ought to put into preserving it.
The first step to preserving your horse blankets really ought to start in spring, when you start to put them away for the season, but who has time in spring? All of a sudden everything is happening at once: the horse shows are every weekend, the grass needs cutting, the arena is underwater, everyone is shedding all over the place and needs hours of grooming. Spring is rough.
But if you waited until the first cool winds of autumn to realize that your blankets went neglected all summer, now is the time to get them cleaned up, stretch them out on the barn aisle floor, and inspect them. The last thing you want to do is try to buy a size 78” turn-out rug the day before the first snowstorm of the season. That’s like trying to buy batteries right before a hurricane.
First, get them cleaned up. If you don’t want to take your rugs to a shop that specializes in horse blankets, and your local laundromat takes one look at you and shrieks “NEVER AGAIN!” then you can do a pretty good job with your hose, a tub of plain soap like Orvus, and a scrub brush. You’re going to get wet and dirty, but it’s a barn, so you should expect that to happen anyway.
A clean blanket shows its scars much more clearly than a dirty one. Patch up tears now, to stop them from growing later. If you can sew, great! You’re in business. There are YouTube videos aplenty on how to sew up blankets. You can even use the iron-on patches your mom used on the holes in your jeans when you were a kid. If you can’t sew, can’t even begin to imagine sewing, and don’t want to take them to a horse blanket repair joint, consider the great fix-all: duct tape. It’s not the prettiest solution in the world, but if you want to get one more season out of an old battleship of a turn-out rug, the judicious application of duct tape across the tear can stop it from spreading.
A quick fix for tiny tears in polyester fabrics that we’ve heard of, that haven’t tried: melting. Just like when you cut off a nylon strap and want to weld the ends together to stop fraying, you can use a lighter to carefully melt the edges together.
A word about waterproofing: it doesn’t last forever. Try this: every year, get a bottle of waterproof spray from the local camping or hardware store. Put your blanket in a very well-ventilated space, like over a paddock railing where there are no horses, and then spray the blanket all over according to the directions. Make sure the wind isn’t going to blow the spray in your face. It will do wonders for extending the usefulness of your water proof blanket, and a dry horse is a happy horse.
Finding out about repair work now will extend the life of your blanket. That’s a big savings for your wallet and for your piece of mind. And your horse? Well he is just looking forward to all that mud. And kicking. And maybe some teeth marks, just for fun!