For those of you who keep your equines blanketed in winter, there is no doubt you probably have quite a chunk of change invested in your horse warmers. High-quality horse blankets can last a long time but only if you care for them properly.
Spring time will be upon us soon (yay!!), which means people will be packing up their horse's winter blankets, turnout sheets and other apparel. It's going to be a while before we get these blankets out again so it's important to store them the right way. There are 3 main steps here, which include blanket repair, washing blankets and storing blankets properly. Let's get started!
Step 1: Repair
First off, gather up the blankets that you won't be needing until next winter. You will want to look over each blanket carefully for any tears, bad stitching or broken buckles. Do this BEFORE washing since that whole process will make tears bigger or ruin iffy stitching even more.
- Stitching: Look over the entire blanket, inside and out, to ensure that the stitching is still in place and strong. This is especially important on areas of the blanket that are stressed such as by surgicals, buckles and areas that move with the horse.
- Buckles & Hardware: Any metal, plastic or rubber hardware needs to be examined for strength. Rubber pieces can be prone to drying out and cracking. Metal might be strong but it also can become weak with repeated use or rust. The same goes for plastic hardware. If you think certain buckles or pieces of hardware won't make it through another winter, it's best to replace them now.
- Overall Condition: Horses, and their pasture mates, can be tough on blankets. Tears in the blanket, weakened thin spots in material and runs in the fabric from catching on a fence can lead to issues obviously. Take care of these problems before they become an issue next season.
It really isn't difficult to fix your own blankets if you already have experience with hand sewing or have a sewing machine that can handle thick material. However, if you have your doubts, it's better to send the blanket to someone who specializes in blanket repair (these specialists can probably wash it too - 2 birds, 1 stone!). This is especially a good idea if there are large expanses of stitching that needs replacement, hardware replacement or very large tears in the blanket.
Step 2: Wash
Once the repairs have been taken care of, it's time to take care of all that horse hair, sweat, dirt and who knows what else that has attached itself to your blankets. You can wash the blankets yourself or send it to a blanket laundromat like mentioned above. If you go with the latter, you won't have to do anything except drop them off and pick them up. If you'd rather save some money and do it yourself, there are 3 options.
- By Hand: The most labor intensive way of getting those blankets clean is to wash them by hand. Use a stiff brush and a power washer. If you don't have a power washer, consider going to a self-service car wash and use their power washer wands (they even have racks to hold up car mats which work great for blankets). If your blankets are particularly funky you'll have to do some scrubbing before you take them anywhere near a washing machine.
- Washing Machine: The ability to use your own washing machine at home depends on the size of blanket and the size of your washing machine. A typical top loading washing machine probably won't be able to handle a thick winter blanket. You might be able to use a front loading washing machine for an average size winter blanket. Keep in mind that you will have to deal with horse hair in your washing machine!
- Laundromat: If you're like most people you'll probably want to just take your blankets to a laundromat that has those big commercial washing machines. Be courteous of the business's rules as some places won't allow horse items. Also, please be kind and ensure you get off most of the funk before washing your blanket at a public place. It's also a good idea to run an empty cycle when you're done with your blanket just to help get everything out.
After your blankets have been washed you might be able to dry them in a commercial sized dryer, but please check the blanket care tag! It's usually a better idea to just wash them, take them home and let them air dry. Another tip: horse's have sensitive skin and, like some people, they might be irritated by detergents. Run the blanket through the washing cycle twice - first with detergent and then without.
Step 3: Store
So you now have all of your nice clean blankets ready to be put away. A quick step that is *very* important but easy to forget it to re-waterproof your blankets! There are specific horse blanket spray products but honestly, Scotchgard and other non-toxic sprays used by campers work just fine. Once that is done, it's time to store the blankets till next season.
There are a few different ways to store blankets properly. No, this doesn't include stuffing blankets onto a shelf for months. Dust, insects, rodents and sun damage will all ruin nice blankets in those months between winter. If you want to protect your investments you need to keep them safe. I recommend using the following two methods.
- Plastic Storage Tubs: Plastic storage tubs made by Rubbermaid or Sterilite are awesome for storing blankets. You can fold blankets flat or roll them up like a sleeping bag. These tubs also make organizing very easy since you can keep one horse's blankets in just one tub.
- Space/Vacuum-Packed Bags: These bags are a Godsend for folks who have little space or a whole lot of blankets. These plastic bags used vacuum suction to literally suck out all the extra air and flatten the blanket. This process makes the blanket very thin without ruining it. You can then stack them on shelves or, using the above idea, place them in storage tubs for extra protection.
To keep blankets smelling fresh you can fold a dryer sheet up with the blankets before storing. Also, LABEL YOUR BLANKETS! This is so important and saves time. You can use labels (or just a piece of duct tape) on the outside of your storage bag or tub to list what the contents are. Include the blanket type, horse's name and size.
Good luck with your winter blanket storage!
(Photo Credit: By Roland zh (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)