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Wool plaid cooler

Coolers

A cooler is a lightweight, absorbent cover designed to help a wet horse dry slowly without getting chilled. Essential during cold or cool, breezy weather, these items are also valuable in hot times. Even when he doesn’t need protection from chilling, a cooler can help dry a horse more quickly by wicking moisture away from his hair and letting it evaporate from the outer surface of the cooler. Sometimes, during cold weather, frost will form on the outside of the cooler, a sure sign that it’s working! In the winter, you can layer two coolers after bathing a horse and remove the inner cooler once it has absorbed most of the moisture.

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Click photo to purchase

The typical cooler style covers the horse from poll to tail and hangs very long on the sides. It usually has a browband, two or more light tie straps under the neck, and a tail loop, but no surcingle or leg straps. This style is good for throwing over a horse, tack and all, after a workout to allow him to cool down while walking or untacking. Small size is 66 by 72 inches, Regular size is 84 by 90 inches, and Large is 90 by 96 inches.

saratoga-polartec-plaid-1

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Coolers also come in a more fitted stable-sheet style, with one or more belly attachments, front closures, and possibly leg straps. Because this style is more secure on the horse, it’s better suited for a horse that’s unattended, such as a horse turned into a stall or paddock to munch hay after a bath or workout.

Click photo to purchase

Click photo to purchase

Coolers used on sweaty horses need to be easily washable, since the dirt and minerals from sweat remain in the material after the moisture evaporates. Since wool coolers, even when washed cold, are more prone to shrinking than synthetic coolers, you can minimize their trips to the washing machine by double-layering them with a more washable synthetic cooler next to the horse.

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Cherry,

It has been a miserable winter so far here in New York and even riding indoors is a problem. I’ve heard about quarter sheets but I’m not sure which to choose and how to use them. Help!

Tasha and Gizmo

Choosing and Using a Quarter Sheet

©  2011 Cherry Hill   © Copyright Information

Quarter sheets, also called exercise rugs, are used while longeing or riding horses during cold weather to keep a horse warm during warm-up and during active work to prevent rapid muscle cooling which can lead to chilling and cramping.  Wet heat loss is 23 times faster than dry heat loss.  If a horse is allowed to become damp during a cooling out period, he will likely lose so much heat as to experience muscle chill.  Blanketed, stabled horses with very short (clipped) coats are prime candidates for quarter sheets.  The sheets are placed under the saddle or affixed around the saddle, depending on the style.

Quarter sheets perform different functions depending on what material is used their construction: they can keep a horse warm, prevent a horse from cooling out too rapidly during strenuous work, minimize moisture build up under the sheet by wicking it away from the horse’s body, and keep a horse dry when being worked in wet weather.

Wool, the traditional fiber from sheep fleece, absorbs moisture vapor from the hair and skin leaving a dry layer of insulating air between the horse’s body and the wool.  The natural crimp of wool fibers make them stand apart from each other which allows air to be trapped between the fibers, further insulating and holding in body heat.  Although wool can absorb moisture vapor, it cannot absorb liquid so it has a good degree of water repellency.  The scales on the outside of wool fibers causes liquids to roll off so it takes quite a bit of moisture for wool to get wet and when it does, it tends to be a comfortable rather than cold and clammy.  Wool allows the body to cool down slowly, thereby reducing the chance of chills.

Wool has a natural elasticity: dry wool can stretch about 30 percent and wet wool between 60-70 percent allowing freedom of movement.  Good quality wool should return to its natural shape when dry.  Wool’s flexibility also makes it durable – the coiled, crimped fibers stretch instead of snap when stressed.

Virgin wool is 100% new wool that has never been processed.  It has a distinctive fluffy crimp to it.  Processed and reprocessed wools are usually more dense and compact.  Often other fibers are added to vary the characteristics of the wool such as acrylic for softness or nylon for wear resistance.

Polarfleece and Polartec are registered trademarks for the original double-faced fleece fabrics made by Malden Mills from 100% Dacron DUPONT polyester.  The warmth of Polartec is comparable to wool with less bulk and weight; it is more durable than acrylic; the double facing makes it soft on both sides.  Polarfleece machine washes well on cold without fading or losing shape, no bleach, hang dry, do not press, iron, or steam.  Fiber absorbs no more than one percent of its weight in water so stays very light and is a very rapid drying fabric.

GoreTex is a windproof and waterproof fabric which means moisture won’t get inside even if pressure is applied to the fabric such as from a saddle.  GoreTex is also breathable which means perspiration vapor is able to pass out through the fabric.  To keep GoreTex at its maximum waterproof/breathable performance, wash and tumble dry the item and occasionally iron using a warm setting.  If professionally dry cleaned, request clear distilled solvent rinse and request spray repellent.

SympaTex is also a windproof, waterproof, breathable fabric with the same properties as GoreTex.  Wash in warm water on gentle cycle using a mild detergent but no fabric conditioner.  Do not use a fast spin.  Allow the garment to drip dry.  Iron at a low temperature.

Quarter sheets, originating in the military, were initially just long saddle blankets which ended at the junction of the loin and croup and had normal length sides.  Many of today’s quarter sheets are cut more like a partial blanket, covering not only the entire back, loin, and croup but the entire side of the horse as well.  The sheets that provide maximum coverage provide warmth and prevent chilling over a large area but if too snugly fitted over the hindquarters and tail, can inhibit movement and if too long on the sides can interfere with leg aids or the use of spurs.  Larger sheets also have a tendency to billow, necessitating a fillet string or tail cord or loop to keep the back of the sheet from flapping.


Traditional Cut:  The traditional cut quarter sheet is a large rectangle that runs from withers to tail, down the shoulders, sides and hindquarters.  The saddle sits on top of the sheet and is secured via girth loops and stabilized with a tail loop.  Girth and saddle must be removed in order to remove the traditional quarter sheet.  The traditional style is either sparse like the original military quarter sheet or fuller like a stable sheet with the front missing.

European Cut:  The European cut features a cut-away section under the girth which helps prevent the sheet from gathering in that area and allows for normal use of leg aids and spurs.  Tack must be removed to remove this style of quarter sheet.

Easy On/Off Style:  There is a cut out area for the saddle and (Velcro) fasteners in front of saddle.  Therefore, the sheet is put on after the horse is saddled and can be removed without removing the girth or saddle.  Usually this type of sheet does not have girth loops and goes over the fastened girth which allows quick removal of the sheet.  This style of sheet usually has a tail tie which, if tied with a quick release knot, makes the sheet easy to take off even while mounted.  If it comes with a tail loop and you expect to take it off during the work, you can opt to not put the loop under the horse’s tail or you can dismount to remove the sheet.  In any event, you don’t have to remove tack to remove the sheet.  This style of sheet can be used under the rider’s leg as a traditional exercise rug or over the rider’s legs to keep the rider warm.  A great bonus use with this type of sheet is for temperatures where a quarter sheet is not needed during warm-up and active work but is beneficial during cool-down – this style of sheet can quickly be put on without removing any tack or even dismounting in some cases.

If a sheet has an English Brace, it refers to a reinforced wither area which offers extra protection in the most vulnerable section of the quarter sheet, directly under the saddle where there is extreme pressure.  A well-made English Brace usually means a longer lasting product.

Sizing is listed several ways.  It is usually expressed as the length from the front edge of the quarter sheet to the rear edge of the sheet in feet and inches, inches, or centimeters.  So, a 4′ 6″ sheet might also be called a 54 (“) sheet or a 137 (cm) sheet or might be called size Medium or Large depending on the manufacturer.  However, each manufacturer determines the actual dimension of their size Large, for example, which can range from 54-57 inches.


Sometimes a quarter sheet size is the horse’s equivalent stable blanket size.  The quarter sheet described above would fit a horse that would wear a size 78 blanket (197 cm) so sometimes the sheet is referred to as a 78, but it is not 78″ or 197 cm long.  All of this varies greatly with sheet design, country of origin, and the manufacturer.

Fit will be dependent on the cut of the pattern, whether there are seams and darts, and the type of material used.  Some materials conform and mold to the horse’s contour better than others.  Sheets with 2 or more pieces and hindquarter or croup darts tend to fit the contours of a horse’s topline better than a single piece drape, thereby staying in place and providing a snug, cozy fit.  However, these same well-fitted sheets could inhibit movement.

Cherry Hill

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I’d like to get a washing machine for horse blankets, can you recommend a particular machine you’ve had good luck with? I don’t want to fry my home machine, ruin the blanket on the agitator, or block up the water supply (top 3 complaints I’ve heard about using home machines which were meant for human laundry).

Thank you! Linda

Hi Linda,

No matter what machine you purchase and use, it helps if you brush and vacuum any horse items before you put them in the machine. That will remove hair, break up any dirt or sweat and decrease the amount of stuff that would block up the drain. And with a dryer, one must be diligent about keeping all screens and vents clean of hair and lint.

I have quite a few articles on horse clothing at my website’s Horse Information Roundup including some on care.

Now to the washing machine. The first washing machine I had for barn laundry was an industrial wringer washer. Advantage was that it didn’t have to be plumbed in – you could fill it with a hose and empty it out in the wash rack drain. It rolled around on wheels so could be stored, then rolled out to use. It did a good job of cleaning barn cloths and small sheets and blankets but because it was an agitator model, even though it had a large capacity tub, it wasn’t the greatest for the big puffy blankets. AND is was very labor intensive to wring out the items, then refill with rinse water, then wring again. And the wringer could be a bugger on some buckles and other hardware. I’ll bet you weren’t even considering a wringer washer but I wanted to mention it just in case. Some people still swear by them but I’d have to say it was great in the experience column but not one I’d recommend.

The next machine I had installed in my tack room was a Sears Kenmore agitator model. When we upgraded our washer and dryer in the house (with another Sears Kenmore Washer Dryer combo), I put the old set in the barn. That was over 15 years ago and both sets are still humming along ! It was the largest capacity at the time of manufacture (pre-1990) so nothing like the large capacity, front load machines today, and yet, it has been completely satisfactory for my needs.

However, if I needed to replace my tack room machine today, it would definitely be a front load since there is no twisting and wringing of blankets with a front load and you can purchase some very large capacity models. But then you probably know all that.

You might have been asking for a brand name recommendation so since I’ve had long standing good luck with Sears Kenmore, I’d start there. I’m not sure how Kenmore stacks up with other models, so I’d have to do some research before I bought.Consumer Reports is always a good source of comments on items like this, so I’d recommend checking their latest review of front load washers.

And I just typed “washing machine reviews” in google and see there are a number of sites with great information and ratings – once you narrow things down, that would be a good place to check on repair history and so on.

So I probably haven’t told you anything you didn’t already know but perhaps by posting this, we will get some comments here from other horseowners who have used machines for barn laundry which is what we both would be very interested in hearing about.

Cherry Hill

 

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