Blanket & Pad Care

REASONS FOR CLEANING:

Saddle pads, such as those produced by Cutter Collection, are designed to breathe and "wick" away moisture - both essential for horse health and comfort. A pad (or blanket) encrusted with dirt and hair eventually will stop breathing. Likewise, wool fleece will lose its wicking ability with a heavy build-up of dirt and hair. At the same time, if the build-up of hair and dirt is heavier in some parts of the blanket/pad than other parts, the fit of blanket and saddle could be compromised.

These issues, if not resolved, will result in some form of irritation to your horse and reduce the life-span of your blanket/pad to just a couple of years instead of several years. We know these pads will last for years with proper care because it is not uncommon to be asked to replace fleece, filler and wear leathers on a blanket that we constructed 8-10 years ago.

INSPECTION:

A blanket/pad should always be inspected before use. At this point, the rider is not only inspecting for the accumulation of hair and dirt but also the possibility of burs, thorns, twigs or anything else which might irritate the horse's back during a ride.

FREQUENCY AND TYPE OF CLEANING:

There is no set formula for the frequency and the type of cleaning. So much depends on how often you ride, the duration of your time in the saddle and your terrain. Common practice is to periodically slap the blanket/pad against something stationary to loosen dirt and hair and then brush the blanket with a soft to medium stiff horse brush. For more thorough cleaning, some manufacturers recommend washing every 60 or 90 days. Others suggest washing after 100 hours of use.

CLEANING METHODS:

Soft to medium horse brush, rubber curry comb, sponge

The idea behind using brushes, combs or sponges (after giving the blanket/pad a few whacks on both sides with an old tennis racket or similar "whacker") is to avoid heavy build-up of dirt and hair. Whatever is used to clean the blanket/pad, care should always be taken not to fray the material.

When cleaning a blanket, use a soft to medium stiff horse brush or rubber curry comb to clean the side which rests on the horses' back. Some sponges also work well. For the topside of the blanket, a soft horse brush or sponge should be adequate. If you use both sides of the blanket, clean both sides equally.

When cleaning a pad (with fleece bottom), care must be taken to avoid weakening the connection of the fleece to its netting. Gentle use of a soft horse brush or sponge is the recommendation. For the topside, again, a soft horse brush or sponge should be adequate.

Vacuums - home or car wash

This is another good method for removing dirt and hair from a blanket/pad. Vacuuming should be done slowly. Vacuuming on a regular basis will also increase the period between washings which, in turn, mean the blanket colors will not fade as fast.

Machine washing

There are a few pads which manufacturers list as machine washable. However, only use a washing machine if indicated on the care instructions. If the blanket/pad is "machine washable”, make sure instructions are followed carefully.

Hand washing

The first step is to soak the blanket/pad in cool or cold water. Our recommendation is to not use soap, detergent, Woolite or any cleaning solution at any time. While there are commercial cleaning products available, supposedly designed for saddle blankets/pads, it is too difficult to determine whether all these chemicals have been removed with rinsing. Of course, if any residue filters on to the horse's back, the result would not be very pleasant for the horse.

When the dirt and hair has been loosened, the second step is to rinse the blanket/pad with a garden hose or the spray at the car wash (only use a car wash hose if gentle rinse available). Besides removing dirt and hair, the use of the hose or spray will reduce the amount of necessary brushing and, thus, prolong the life of the pad.

There are three points to consider when hosing or spraying a blanket/pad. First, do not use clamps or any other device to hang a wet blanket. Eventually, the weight of the blanket/pad will pull on these connections and damage the blanket/pad or pull it out of shape. Perhaps, the best approach is to drape the blanket/pad over a rail, saddle rack or tail gate of your pickup truck and work each half of the blanket/pad separately.

Secondly, some attachments to hoses and sprays will emit a very powerful stream of water. While this will make the washing process quicker and easier, there is the risk of damaging the blanket/pad. It is best to start rinsing from a distant and move closer, if necessary. If the attachment on the hose or spray is adjustable, it is best to begin at a lower setting and increase the intensity as needed.

Thirdly, with a blanket/pad (lying flat on the ground) do not rinse a or spray straight down into the material. Any rinsing effort with the blanket/pad in this position, will only drive dirt, hair and sweat salts deeper into the blanket/pad. The key is to move the dirt and hair to the edges of the blanket/pad rather than to the back or center. Starting at the center, direct the stream of water at an angle and move it toward the edge of the pad (like cleaning debris off a driveway). It is also recommended to rotate the pad a quarter turn from time to time to keep the dirty water flowing to the edges. The rotation is particularly important if only half of the blanket/pad is exposed at a time.

If there are a few stubborn areas of dirt and hair, it will be necessary to use a brush, comb or sponge as mentioned above and then repeat the rinsing process.

DRYING:

Clothes dryer

The use of a clothes dryer is rarely recommended since the process is very hard on the blanket/pad and often just as hard on the dryer.

Air drying

Most manufacturers recommend air drying by draping the blanket/pad over a saddle stand, pipe fence or anything else that allows natural air flow. As mentioned under "Cleaning Methods”, it is not a good idea to hang the pad with pins or clips. Manufacturers also recommend that the blanket/pad should never be draped over a saddle stand, pipe fence, etc. upside down since this will stretch the inner lacings and weaken the construction.

Most blankets/pads will feel a little stiff after drying. Either rolling, unrolling the blanket, or flexing the pad will soften the material. Of course, once the blanket/pad is used again, it will soften.

FADING:

New Zealand wool will hold colors better than most wool. However, eventually fading will occur. As mentioned, fading is reduced by limiting the number of required washings. Fading does not alter the effectiveness of the blanket/pad.

WEAR LEATHERS:

After washing your blanket/pad, wear leathers or leather labels (as with a Cutter Collection pad), the leather should be treated with a leather conditioner such as Fiebing's 4-Way. Conditioners can be used while the leather is still damp or completely dry.