Horse Care Tips

Horse care 101: Turnout blankets vs. stable blankets

turnout blanket horse
Written by Horse Rookie

Keep Your Horse Cozy and Comfy Year-Round

If you’re anything like me, you know what it’s like to lie awake at night worried about whether you put on the “correct” blanket. Maybe it’s bone-chilling cold, yet dry. Perhaps it’s sleeting, but your horse has a nice shelter. Or, maybe your horse is stabled, but not used to winter because he came from Florida. 

Depending on the conditions, and your specific horse, you may want to use a stable blanket or a turnout blanket. For animals stalled indoors, a stable blanket will be sufficient. For horses living outdoors, or turned out for a large parts of the day, a turnout blanket provides protection against wind and water.

Types of Horse Blankets

When it comes to protecting your horse from the elements, there are two main types of blankets: 

Stable Blankets: These are designed to be used indoors, either for horses kept in stalls or traveling in a trailer. They are not waterproof — nor durable enough for horses that live outside. Stable blankets typically offer a lower level of water resistance to protect from urine and manure when a horse lies down in a stall.

horse stable blanket

Click to see stable blankets at State Line Tack

Turnout Blankets: These are designed to be used outdoors, either for horses in a paddock or pasture that are out in the elements. They are waterproof and more durable. Even if your horse has an outdoor shelter, you still need to use a turnout blanket.

horse turnout blanket

Click to see turnout blankets at State Line Tack

Looking to improve you blanketing system? Check out our 7 best horse blankets for winter, turnout, rain and more.

Stable Blanket vs. Turnout Blanket

Here’s a quick guide to help you decide which type of blanket to use.

  Stable Blanket Turnout Blanket
Stall Use Yes No
Trailer Use Yes Yes
Paddock Use No Yes
Pasture Use No Yes
Waterproof No Yes
Water Resistant Depends Yes
Windproof No Yes
Breathable Depends Yes
Freedom of Movement Medium High
Durable Medium High
horse paddock blanket

Turnout blankets are designed to take a beating and keep doing the job.

Weighing Your Options

Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as simply choosing a turnout vs. stable blanket. There are also a variety of weight — or fill — insulation options to consider. Insulation is designated in grams.

  • Sheet: A sheet does not have any insulation (i.e. zero grams), and its primary purpose is to be waterproof. You can layer a sheet on top of a blanket liner (read on for details) to add insulation.
  • Lightweight: These blankets have minimal insulation, typically between 100-200g. 
  • Midweight: These blankets have insulation in the range of 200-300g. 
  • Heavyweight: At the top of the scale are heavyweight blankets, which typically have insulation of 300g or more. 

Liners and Coolers

You can purchase blanket liners to change the insulation factor of your blankets and sheets. By adding a 100g liner to your rain sheet, for example, you can provide a bit more warmth for cold and rainy days. If you use liners, be sure to attach all the clips to keep the liner and sheet or blanket attached. Otherwise, a liner can shift around and become a danger to your horse.

Liners should only be used in combination with other sheets and blankets — never on their own.

If you ride during cold temperatures, a quality cooler and/or scrim sheet is a must. Coolers are typically made of fleece or wool, and they should be put on after exercise to help wick moisture from your horse’s coat and skin. (This helps them dry sooner so you aren’t waiting around for hours freezing to death!)

centaur horse cooler

Click to see my cooler at Amazon

A scrim sheet acts similarly to a cooler, but it’s made from more of a mesh type fabric. Sometimes I layer a scrim sheet under my cooler to further speed up the drying process, and it works great.

Horse Blanket Fill Chart

There’s no “perfect equation” when it comes to blanketing, but we can provide some guidelines. If you’re not sure which blanket/liner to use in certain conditions, consult a trusted trainer, stable manager, or vet.  

The following parameters are for horses that keep their natural coat during the winter. If your horse is body clipped, though, you’ll usually want to bump up one level for blanketing.

50 – 60 Rain Sheet (0g)
40 – 50 Lightweight Blanket (100g)
30 – 40
Midweight Blanket (150g – 250g)
20 – 30
Mid-Heavyweight Blanket (200g – 300g)
Below 20 Heavyweight (300g – 400g)

Check out the best clippers for body clipping so your horse is prepped for cold weather exercise.

Neck or No Neck

Since you wanted even more variables (insert heavy sigh), you can also choose from a variety of neck types or hood attachments. 

  • High neck blankets are cut so a portion of the neck is covered above the withers. 
  • Hoods are removable neck covers that clip or velcro onto a blanket.
  • Combo neck blankets include a neck cover that cannot be removed.
combo neck horse blanket

Click to see this combo-neck blanket at Amazon

What’s on My Hook

Want a real-life example of the types of sheets and blankets used in a cold-weather climate like Montana? Here’s a breakdown of what’s hanging on my horse’s blanket hook:

horseware liner

Click to see my liner at State Line Tack

High-Tech Blanketing

Want to take some of the guesswork out of your blanketing quandaries? Thanks to technology advancements, now you can.

  • SmartPak Blanketing App: Leading equestrian website, SmartPak, created a helpful blanketing app that recommends different blankets based on your horse’s custom living situation.
  • Orscana Equine Health Monitor: This innovative, wearable device measures your horse’s temperature under blankets, detects sweating, analyzes movement, and adjusts recommendations according to the weather. Plus, a warning system alerts you immediately if your horse leaves its calculated “comfort zone.”
  • Horsepal Blanket Sensor: Designed by Horseware Ireland, this small sensor goes under your horse’s blanket and lets you check temperature and humidity in real-time on your phone.
equine health monitor

Click to see it at State Line Tack

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a stable blanket used for?

As we discussed in this article, a stable blanket is used to provide additional warmth for horses kept indoors. Depending how cold it gets in your area, the type of winter coat your horse grows, and whether you body clip, you may want to consider using a stable blanket.

What is the difference between a horse blanket and sheet?

The key difference between horse blankets and sheets is the amount of insulation. Stable sheets and turnout sheets are lightweight without any insulation. Stable blankets and turnout blankets have at least some fill, or insulation. 

What is the best turnout blanket for a horse?

The Tough 1 Snuggit 168D Turnout Blanket is one of the best turnout blankets because of its adjustable Snuggit neck, durable exterior, and freedom of movement.

Is it OK to put a blanket on a damp horse?

Your goal is to blanket a dry horse — and have him stay dry. Otherwise, your blanket could trap moisture next to your horse’s skin and chill him. If you’re trying to get him to dry faster, a) join the club, b) towel him down, and c) add a cooler or scrim sheet. Hand-walking can also be an effective way to speed up the drying process.

Once your horse is mostly dry, remove coolers/scrim sheets and blanket as normal. It’s okay if the tips of your horse hair are still a little damp, especially on the neck, but you want his core to be as dry as possible prior to blanketing. 

Why do horses wear blankets in the summer?

If you see a horse wearing a “blanket” in the summertime, it probably isn’t really a blanket. During warm weather, horses may wear: 

  • Fly Sheet: These lightweight sheets help repel flies that would bother and/or bite the horse. (Learn more)
  • Turnout Sheet: A lightweight sheet designed for outdoors can help keep horses clean and protect them from light rain.

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About the author

Horse Rookie

I began riding horses at age six, and I'm just as infatuated (OK, more!) with the sport decades later. My AQHA gelding exemplifies the versatility of the breed -- reined cow horse, reining, roping, ranch riding, trail, dressage, and jumping. We're also dipping our toes (hooves) into Working Equitation!