Horse Outerwear Explained
The Higher the Denier, the Heavier the Fibers Are That Make Up the Fabric
A quick peek into most people's closets would probably reveal coats and jackets for a variety of seasons and weather fluctuations. You might find a heavy winter coat, a bright-yellow rain slicker, a lightweight cotton or nylon windbreaker, and a dress coat. You'd discover coats for function and coats for fashion. Similarly, the well-dressed, well-cared-for horse requires outerwear for function and fashion, too. Here is a broad overview of the types of equestrian apparel available to horse owners. Each particular brand or model will have its own unique characteristics; but you'll notice that broad categories share common traits.
The main function of a turnout is to keep the horse dry and moisture out. Used when the horse is outside in the wide-open pasture or paddock and not in the confines of the stall or barn, turnouts must be durable and impervious to the elements. Because the horse is in an unsupervised situation, turnouts are also designed with sturdy attachments to keep the product in place when the horse is grazing, jumping, rolling, and playing.
Turnouts generally come in three weights. Many riders believe that uninsulated shells or sheets are the most versatile since they can be used alone during mild weather, or layered with a sheet, blanket, or liner during extreme conditions. Medium-weight turnouts are suitable for clipped horses, or horses without a winter coat, in mildly cold weather. Medium turnouts also work well for horses with winter coats in cold weather. Heavyweight turnouts are usually reserved for the worst and coldest weather conditions.
The Europeans (and many Americans) call them rugs. No matter what you call them, blankets are used indoors to keep horses warm in unheated or chilly stables and with new multiple-foyer products, stalls. And, by slowing the hair growth of a clipped horse, a blanket also provides grooming benefits.
Think of horse sheets as that lightweight jacket in your own closet. Like blankets, sheets are used indoors in barns and stables. Most riders use sheets as an intermediate "blanket" in cooler weather, while other riders use them to preserve body heat as the horse cools down after exercise. You can even layer a sheet over a more costly stable blanket in order to protect and help keep it clean and lasting longer.
Dress sheets are the "fashion" outerwear in your horse's closet, but they also serve a functional purpose in keeping dust off of his coat during shows and events. Dress sheets often come in an array of color choices and feature fancy braiding, trims, monogramming, or embroidery.
Think of them as the layering pieces in your horse's wardrobe. Used beneath blankets or sheets, liners utilize fabrics with moisture-wicking properties, low bulk, and superior warmth- to-weight ratios. When fitting a liner under a turnout, be sure that the turnout completely covers the liner, so the liner doesn't get wet and chill your horse.
Perfect for cooling down after exercise in order to prevent the horse from breaking out in a sweat, coolers are made of moisture-wicking fabrics. They must be used in a controlled situation, since-unlike turnouts-they aren't equipped with the hardware needed to keep the product from slipping off of the horse. Coolers can also be used over the horse after he has been bathed to keep him from getting chilled.
Multifunction fly sheets are designed to meet the needs of horses that are turned out on a regular basis during fly season. As the name suggests, they keep the horse from being annoyed by pesky bugs and mosquitoes. Flysheets also offer effective protection from harmful UV rays, which can bleach the horse's coat and cause damage to his skin.
Interestingly enough, fly sheets can actually keep the horse cooler in warm weather because they block the sun from the horse's coat and create a small layer for air to flow and circulate between the horse and the fine mesh fabric. Like turnouts, fly sheets should be equipped with sturdy hardware to keep the product in place while the horse is unsupervised in the pasture or field.
Rain sheets are an absolute necessity in some climates. Think of them as raincoats for horses and their tack. Like coolers, rain sheets are best used in controlled situations.
Quarter sheets are used under the saddle while riding. They protect the horse's hindquarters and vital organs and are a natural aid in cool weather to wick away moisture and sweat. Many manufacturers offer "tear away" styles for easy removal after the horse is warmed up.
Fly Masks, Travel Boots, Hoods, and Tail Covers
Think of these products as similar to the gloves, mufflers, hats, and boots in your own closet. Each offers additional protection and coverage for the horse.
Understanding the Terms
Coating: Method of waterproofing a fabric by spraying a synthetic polymer [polyurethane (PU), polyester (PE), polypropylene (PP)] onto the fabric. A coating is applied in a liquid state and bonds to the fabric during the drying process (heat may be involved as well). The coating is applied to the underside (inside) of the outer fabric of turnouts.
Denier: A measure to express the fineness of filament yarns. The fineness of natural silk and man-made fibers (nylon or polyester) is expressed in denier. The denier indicates the weight of 9.000 meters of fiber or yam. This means that one strand of 1200 denier polyester 9000 meters long (9 km!) would weigh 1200 g or 1.2 kg. A strand is one individual spun fiber. The individual fibers are bundled to make thread; the thread is then woven to make the fabric. Though this is a very technical definition, roughly translated, the higher the denier, the heavier the fibers are that make up the fabric. Generally, the heavier the strands, the stronger the fabric.
Hydrophilic membrane: A membrane (laminate or coating) whose waterproof and breathable properties are achieved by a "water loving" treatment. The membrane absorbs water vapor and transfers the vapor from high humidity (your horse's body inside the blanket) to low humidity (the sur-rounding air outside the blanket.) Most waterproof and breathable horse clothing manufacturers use this method.
Laminate: Method of bonding a thin membrane to a fabric with the goal of making the fabric waterproof. Both the fabric to be treated and the membrane are in a solid state and are usually heat-bonded together. The process is applied to the underside (inside) of the outer fabric of turnouts.
Micro-porous membrane: A membrane whose waterproof and breathability properties are achieved by a selectively permeable membrane of very small holes. The pores are small enough for water vapor (individual water molecules) to pass through but not water droplets. Although this treatment is effective, it is not preferred for horse clothing because dirt can clog the pores, compromising the breathability of the fabric.
Nylon: This manufactured fiber is very strong and is resistant to both abrasion and damage from many chemicals. It is elastic, easy to wash, and is quite lustrous. Nylon is non-absorbent and returns easily to its original shape. It is fast drying resistant to some dyes, water, perspiration, and standard dry-cleaning agents, as well as to moths and other insects.
Polyester: An extremely resilient fiber that is smooth, crisp, and particularly springy, its shape is determined by heat and it is insensitive to moisture. Polyester is lightweight, strong, and resistant to creasing, shrinking, stretching, mildew, and abrasion. It is readily washable and is not damaged by sunlight or weather. Polyester is resistant to moths and mildew.
SGS: Stands for "Societe Generale de Surveillance." It is an international organization that tests various materials against recognized standards. You can visit their site for more information. http://www.sgs.com/
Waterproofness: Degree to which a fabric resists water from passing from one side to the other. The level of waterproofness is measured by subjecting a material to a certain water pressure (created by a column of water placed on top of the fabric, commonly referred to as hydrostatic head pressure) for a specific period of time. SGS has standards for a minimum level of resistance for a fabric to be considered "waterproof," but this standard is a minimum. Most waterproof fabrics test out to be "more waterproof" than the minimum.