The air is a little crisper, the nights are a little colder—autumn is here! When autumn arrives, horse owners start thinking about horse blankets. If you ask 100 horse people about blanketing, you’ll get 100 different answers, theories and ideas about horse blanketing; this blog is not about “To blanket or not to blanket.” If you have already decided to blanket, we want to help you decide on the right Bucas blanket for your horse.
How durable does my blanket need to be?
One of the most confusing terms in horse blanket lingo is “denier.” You see a denier number on every blanket intended for turnout, typically abbreviated to “D”; for example, 1200D, 600D. The generally accepted understanding is that the higher the number, the stronger the material, but this is not always the case.
“Denier” is a unit of measure used in the textile industry to quantify the linear mass density of a fiber. That’s a mouthful! Technically it’s the mass in grams of 9000 meters of the fiber (although the denier is usually obtained by weighing 900 meters of the fiber and multiplying by 10). The basis for denier is the mass of 1 strand of silk fiber, where 9000 meters of silk weighs about 1 gram.
What does this mean for horse blankets? What denier does not take into account are the qualities of the textile itself. Denier is only a good measure of strength and durability when comparing different deniers of the same textile. For example, 1200D of ripstop polyester is definitely stronger and more durable than 600D of the same ripstop polyester fiber. But 1200D ripstop polyester is neither stronger nor more durable than 1000D of ballistic nylon.
When considering which horse blanket to buy, consider not only the denier but also the textile itself. The most commonly used textiles in horse blankets are nylon, polyester or polypropylene, all synthetic materials. (Fun Fact: nylon was originally invented to replace silk). Here are some of the materials used by Bucas.
Ballistic Nylon One of the strongest textiles available, ballistic nylon was invented by DuPont for flak jackets in World War II to protect airmen from flying fragments. Ballistic nylon is much stronger than standard nylon or any polyester. Bucas uses 1000D ballistic nylon in the Power and the Smartex. Because the textile is so strong, 1000 denier ballistic nylon is strong enough for horses without adding a lot of unnecessary weight.
Ripstop Polyester is a polyester fabric specially woven in a cross-hatch pattern and interwoven with reinforcement threads. The ripstop weave means the polyester is less likely to continuously tear, making it more durable than standard polyester and a perfect textile for horsey shenanigans. Bucas uses 1200D ripstop polyester on the Irish and Select Turnouts, 600D on the Freedom Turnouts. 1200D ripstop polyester is a tough fabric, but not as tough as 1000D ballistic nylon.
Teflon®-coated Polyester is just what it sounds like—polyester fabric treated with a Teflon® shield to increase durability. Adding the Teflon® coating means that the denier of the polyester can be reduced so the fabric is lighter weight, making it more suitable for a warm weather turnout sheet. Bucas uses 840D Teflon®-coated polyester in the Sunshower sheet, making it a lightweight but durable sheet, perfect for wet weather.
Polypropylene is a synthetic textile with high abrasion resistance and low heat transfer. More simply put, it’s extremely durable and acts as an insulator; these properties make polypropylene perfect for a stable blanket to keep the horse warm. Because polypropylene by nature doesn’t absorb water, it’s naturally water-resistant without additional fabric treatments, but not waterproof. Bucas uses 1100D polypropylene in the Celtic Stable Blanket.
Understanding denier will help you evaluate the durability of the outershell to make the best choice for your horse. Is your horse is destructive? Does he have pasture mates that are hard on blankets? Does your pasture have lots of trees and brush? If your horse’s turnout environment is tough on blankets, you probably should invest in the ballistic nylon Power or Smartex.
For horses that aren’t particularly hard on blankets or have regular turnout in a clean paddock or field, the Irish and the Select are great choices. The Select is actually a blanket system of several blankets in one: an outershell sheet, a quilted stable blanket liner, and when put together, a waterproof/breathable turnout. The Select System offers quite a bit of versatility for horses that are in and out daily, worked year round, or traveling.
If your horse is stall-bound or has a stall with a walk out, the Celtic Stable Blanket or Select System may be the choice for you.
If you live in a geographic area where the spring, autumn and winter is chilly but not brutally cold, or wet, the Sunshower might be the best choice. As a rain sheet without any insulation, it’s lightweight but durable, with a mesh lining that allows air to circulate between the sheet and horse’s skin.
What kind of lining should my blanket have?
Most blankets have some sort of silky lining to prevent rubbing. These linings work well unless the horse becomes overheated or was wet before the blanket was put on. Then they become a moisture trap, much like wearing a t-shirt under a sweater, where the t-shirt absorbs but can’t release the moisture, ending up with the wearer getting chilled. Turnouts that have a silky lining should not be used on a horse that has been exercising until the horse has cooled down; to avoid a chill, use a cooler first, and then change out to a turnout when the horse is relaxed and dry.
To solve this problem for horse owners, Bucas uses a unique fabric called Stay Dry as the lining in Power, Smartex, Celtic, and Select Stay Dry Stable Blanket. Stay Dry is a very low pile fleece that transports moisture rapidly away from the horse’s skin, which in turn allows heat to escape. The Stay Dry lining on the Power, Smartex and Celtic contributes to the overall climate management features of these blankets, as well as cutting down on required blanket changes. You can put any blanket lined with Stay Dry on a wet horse without worrying about changing the blanket to avoid the horse getting a chill, minimizing the need for coolers. If you board your horse and have to pay for each blanket change, having a turnout that minimizes blanket changes can save you money, as well as be healthier for your horse. The Stay Dry lining in the Power and Celtic is anti-microbial; the Stay Dry lining in the Smartex and the Select Stay Dry Stable Blanket is not.
A side benefit of Stay Dry is that by itself, it is a 200g fleece, providing quite a bit of warmth on its own, whereas silky linings offer no warmth.
How much insulation does my horse need?
Once you’ve settled on the outershell and lining, you need to decide on the warmth factor, usually referred to as the “weight” of the blanket which indicates the amount of insulation in the blanket. The insulation, also known as “fill,” is quite often a synthetic batting that provides not only insulation but also breathability. The insulation value of a blanket is usually indicated in the grams per square meter of insulation (a standard 75” blanket is about 3.3 square meters in size, which means 300g of insulation adds about 2lbs of weight). Your goal should be to choose a blanket with enough insulation to keep your horse comfortable, but not so much that your horse overheats and sweats. Insulation also adds weight for your horse to carry so finding the proper balance is necessary for your horse’s overall health. The standard insulation for a “heavy” turnout is 300g. Blankets that have no other way to keep the horse warm will simply add even more batting, which of course adds weight but does not necessarily increase warmth. All Bucas “Extra” Turnouts have 300g of insulation. Medium Turnouts have 150g or 200g, depending on the blanket, and Light have no insulation (with the exception of the Irish, which has 50g).
To further assist in making a good blanket decision, Bucas has provided a temperature range for most of its turnouts. The temperature range indicates a comfort level, although certain factors like a clipped or unclipped coat, humidity, amount of sunshine, wind, and general horse activity can cause the range of comfort to vary, but it gives you a place to start. A comparison of the Power and the Irish Turnout demonstrates how the combination of the right materials can work together for prime efficiency. The Power Light has no insulation, but the aluminum backing on the outershell combined with the Stay Dry lining maintains enough warmth that insulation is not needed. The combination of outershell and lining on the Power Light also makes this turnout more efficient, so horses will be comfortable in a much wider range of temperatures, from 5°F up to about 61°F. In comparison, the Irish Light, with a ripstop polyester shell and silky lining, requires 50g insulation to maintain a much narrower range of comfort, 32°F and up to 54°F.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Units_of_textile_measurement#Denier. Accessed 10/4/2017.