By Ruthann Smith
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© 2007, Ruthann Smith, All rights reserved.
Originally published in Equine Journal
Pass leg straps through each other to suspend between this position and for inches above the hocks.
People regularly adjust horse blankets without understanding the impact on the horse. You want the horse to feel confident, safe and relaxed, and that begins with daily comfort. So, here are rules to live by when blanketing your horse.
Dressing for Life
- ON: Front to Back. Always start the blanketing process at the horse's chest. Finish with the leg straps. This minimizes serious injuries. You don't want the sheet to slide back and the surcingle to tighten around the flank to become a bucking strap (see sidebar).
- OFF: Back to Front To undress the horse, start at the leg straps on work forward to the chest. You'd hate to forget the straps between the legs and pull. A violent panic could ensue.
Surcingles should hang loose. I measure the distance with a big closed fist, about five to six inches.
Fitting for Suppleness
- Slack the Chest. When horses lie down, their shoulders lift. Blankets also slide. Why not leave room for the sheet or blanket to slip into a comfortable spot? Otherwise, the horse stands in cramped pressure, making him sore.Put clothes on with lots of slack and slide them back, leaving a fat fist between the sheet and chest. Loose in the chest is good.
- One Buckle Attaching only one chest buckle will reduce shoulder rubs and allow the horse to be more supple. Carefully check stitching frequently. Fix or tighten promptly. You don't ever want the front fastener to break (or, again, the sheet can become a bucking strap.
- Fist Surcingles. The blanket's surcingles should hang about five inches below the horse's barrel. I Always make sure a good-sized fist width fits between the belly and surcingle.
- Suspend Leg Straps. If a horse lies down and his hock gets caught in the slack of a strap, he'll panic, scramble and likely get hurt. Don't attach the straps across the diagonal, nor simply attach hem to the same side. Instead, snap them to the same side, looped through the other strap. This way, straps hang suspended between the legs rather than drooping with dangerous slack or pressing on the legs. Be sure to adjust the length to suspend the cross above the hocks for safety.
Leave plenty of room at the chest.
Leading through Doors
- Open the Door. Be sure any door is open all the way before walking through it.
- Close the Latch. Always, always make sure latches are pulled back. Otherwise, they can catch a surcingle, causing a best a rip to the blanket and at worse injury to horse and/or handler.
- Wait. Half halt before crossing the threshold. Get the horse back to you and paying attention before passing through any door or gate. Thresholds are not the place to rush. The horse will catch himself.
- Turn Right. Enter the stall to the back and turn to the right. Otherwise, the horse can catch his hip and get ripped open for no good reason.
Avoid Bucking Straps
Bucking straps are tightened around a bronco's flank. They tickle so bad [read: hurt] that the horse goes mad to escape. Clothing handled carelessly can create bucking straps. There is no warning. The surcingle slides slightly and tightens around the barrel. Horses trying to escape the sensation have been known to run through barn walls, through tied down flaps and even drown in a pool. Never undo the chest without undoing the surcingles first. That goes for braiders too.
Ruthann Smith has spent a lifetime studying sound horsemanship- both as a groom for top international horses and as a renowned braider. Quietly twisting manes atop a ladder, she watched and learned in some of the best stables in the world.
As her passion for great grooming grew, Ruthann became focused on researching, collecting and sharing the best practices of the world’s keenest horsemen. Ultimately, Ruthann used her vast experience to develop exceptional equine grooming products to help raise the bar of horsemanship.
The knowledge she dispenses and the products Ruthann developed solve age-old grooming issues. Making quality horse care easier, they have received the highest honors in the equine industry*. Her Lucky Braids for Top Turnout coat care and braiding products are the best, most versatile, cost-effective and easiest solutions available on the market today.
Now Ruthann offers her LOVE, LOVE Guarantee. If not totally thrilled with a product she developed, Ruthann will refund you in full, regardless of where you purchased it.
It’s her life’s mission to empower horses by educating, motivating and equipping their people to be true horsemen. You can access Ruthann’s tips at: The Grooming Resource on LuckyBraids.com, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and her Horsemanship Clinics.
*After testing 350 products, Lucky Braids All-In-One Horse Shampoo was named product of the year by Horse Journal, the “Consumer Reports” of the industry. They also named Lucky Braids Shampoo and Whitener Spray Top Pick for greys and whites. Lucky Braids specialized braiding yarn also got stellar reviews.