7 Steps to Put a Quarter Sheet on Your Horse

If you have seen the stunning photos of racehorses galloping across Ireland’s Curragh in the early hours, you will see they are wearing brightly striped blankets.

This is an exercise rug or blanket.

So how do you put a quarter sheet on a horse and what is its purpose?

I’ve got it all outlined here for you.

Don’t worry it’s easy!

What is a Horse Quarter Sheet?

horse wearing a quarter sheet

A horse quarter sheet is similar to a cooler or a lightweight turnout blanket, except it is much smaller is used for riding. It is just one of the many blanket styles you will see available. They are different from closed-front blankets, like stable blankets and stable sheets.

They come in a rectangular or contoured shape that covers the horse’s back and haunches. Excercise sheets do not have leg straps. Some will have a tail strap.

However, it is very rare to find a traditional wool model with a fillet string. 

How Do You Put a Quarter Sheet on a Horse? (7 Steps)

I learned how to put a quarter sheet on a horse when I was around age 10. Living in the US North East at the time where it is freezing cold in the winter learning how to use one comes early in your equestrian education.

Horse owners commonly use them in cooler weather and they are essential if you are body clipping a horse in those temperatures.

It took me a while to figure how how to do it properly, but now I don’t even think about it, I just put it on. However, recently, the ‘how’ came back into my thoughts recently when a friend bought a Hi-Viz version for her horse, and because she rarely even blankets her horse, she didn’t know how to put on a horse quarter sheet.

This brings me to a little sidetrack. There are different types of quarter sheets for horses, which I’ll tell you about a little later in the instructions.

Now back to the main topic of putting a quarter sheet on a horse. The main steps are the same, but there are some variations that depend on the style of the horse exercise sheet.

Step 1: Traditional Quarter Sheet

A traditional style quarter sheet is in a rectangular shape, and covers the horse from the withers to the tail. The blanket material is usually wool but can sometimes come in a light layer fleece.

The fleece is like a cooler exercise blanket. However, I find wool, provides the most extra warmth, making them a great choice for the coldest days or senior horses.

If you are using this type, you put this on after grooming your horse before any of your other tack.

The straight end, close to the girth straps, goes over the withers so it sits a few inches in front of your saddle. Next put on your saddle pad, and half pad. 

Some users, like a former professional groom, who prefers to remain anonymous, prefer to put the saddle pad on first and then the quarter sheet as the pads are easier to wash, avoiding dirty blankets. [1]

However, while this is an excellent point, I’m not a fan of this method as it is potentially increasing the risk of creating pressure points under the saddle and it just looks tidier.

Step 2: Straighten the Quarter Sheet

Make sure the quarter sheet is straight and there are no wrinkles.

Step 3: Don’t Forget to Pull it Up

Pull everything up into the gullet of the saddle. Something you should always do with your saddle pad.

Step 4: Fold the Sides

Fold each side up and place it under between the saddle’s sweat flap and outer flap. This is the same place your girth straps are located.

Put the quarter sheet under the girth straps, make sure it is smooth and attach your girth.

Don’t put the folds under the sweat flaps. Again, you are creating pressure points and it is also less secure.

Even though this type of riding sheet has girth loops, never leave it hanging down and put your girth through them. This will cause bunching and you want your horse comfortable. It also gets in the way of your legs.

Don’t worry, if you do the folds correctly, your quarter sheet will not slip.

To see how to put on a traditional quarter sheet, using the saddle pad first method, this video is really helpful.

Step 5: Waterproof Quarter Sheet

A waterproof quarter sheet has a slightly different closure style to the traditional one. This also applies to Hi-Viz versions, which my friend asked about.

They can come in different weights with extra warm ones having a fleece lining. Lighter versions have cotton linings. The outer layer is a material similar to that you see with ballistic nylon turnout blankets. 

These horse sheets have a cut out where your saddle goes. Instead of a straight front edge, they have straps with a velcro closure.

Step 6: Groom and Tack Up

Groom your horse and put on your saddle pad and half pad as normal. Then put on your saddle and attach your girth to the billet straps.

Step 7: Put On the Quarter Sheet

Now place the horse sheet over your horse’s haunches with the straps facing its head. Lift the outer flap of your saddle and run the straps through here. Secure the two sides on top of the neck, just in front of the saddle.

Some cuts have straps that face down and connect under the neck just in front of the chest. If you have this type of quarter sheet, put it on over your saddle pad before putting on your saddle.

Horse owners will also come across waterproof quarter sheets that are designed to cover the rider’s thighs. Which is great if you ride outside in the rain.

The same steps apply except you don’t put the sheet under the saddle flap. Instead, you secure it once your one and place the sides over your thighs.

Check out this video which shows you how to put on a quarter sheet that covers your thighs:

What Do Quarter Sheets Do for Horses?

Quarter sheets keep a horse’s muscles warm for riding in cold weather.

Waterproof styles also keep them dry.

Preventing a chill will help the horse warm of and cool down, prevent stiffness and help reduce the risk of a chilly horse that can get fresh!

When Should I Use a Quarter Sheet?

When you should use a quarter sheet depends on the temperature, how much work you’re doing, and your horse’s coat. 

In cool weather, 40 to 50F, Veterinarian, Dr. Lydia Gray recommends that you do your warm-up of around 15-minutes with the quarter sheet on and then take it off for the rest of the training. She then says to put it back on while you are walking to cool down your horse.

This applies to clipped horses.

You might not need a quarter sheet in those temperatures if your horse isn’t clipped as they can get too hot.

If your horse has a winter coat then only use the sheet for warming up and cooling down when the temperature falls below 40F

Here’s Dr. Lydia Gray’s full explanation for her recommendation.

If the temperature is below freezing, using a quarter sheet is an excellent idea and a rule of thumb for a horse if it is clipped. I agree with what Dr. Nancy Loving says in this short clip discussing their use. [2]

Unfortunately, there are no specific studies on the use of quarter sheets on horses. Knowledge of their use is something passed from horseman to horseman.

However, if you want a little more guidance on using blankets in general on horses the University of Kentucky has put together this helpful guide explaining how horses stay warm. [3]

I found it provides helpful information about the body temperature and body systems of the horse.

Just like all types of horse blankets make sure your exercise rug is the correct size. A well-fitting blanket keeps your horse comfortable.

You can also find options that provide various amounts of warmth, so you can adjust what use in line with the weather.

FAQs

Still have some questions about using a horse exercise sheet on your horse?

Let’s take a look at some that I’ve answered.

How cold should it be to use a quarter sheet?

When the temperature hits 40 to 50F and your horse is clipped, warm-up and cool down with a quarter sheet. Once the temperature goes below freezing use a quarter sheet for your whole ride.

Can you jump in a quarter sheet?

Yes, you can jump in a quarter sheet. Racehorses, especially in the UK and Ireland do their morning workouts in cold weather wearing the famous Newmarket exercise rugs, so when put on correctly intense activity won’t shift the blanket.

Conclusion

Using a horse exercise sheet is an important part of its care. They are easy to put on but I find the more modern Hook-And-Loop Velcro Neck Style the easiest to use.

Especially if you are just learning how to put a quarter sheet on a horse.

References

  • 1. Jumpergroom. Show Ring Ready: How to Fold Back a Quarter Sheet [Internet]. Show Ring Ready. 2016 [cited 2021 Dec 14]. Available from: http://showringready.blogspot.com/2016/01/how-to-fold-back-quarter-sheet.html
  • 2. Podcast: Should a Body-Clipped Horse Warm Up in a Quarter Sheet? [Internet]. The Horse. 2016 [cited 2021 Dec 14]. Available from: https://thehorse.com/138329/should-a-body-clipped-horse-warm-up-in-a-quarter-sheet/
  • 3. Blanketing Horses: Do’s and Don’ts | Animal & Food Sciences [Internet]. Uky.edu. 2017. Available from: https://afs.ca.uky.edu/content/blanketing-horses-do%E2%80%99s-and-don%E2%80%99ts
stallion wearing a quarter sheet

How about you, how do you put a quarter sheet on a horse? Please let us know in the comments below!

Siun L
Siun L

Siun is an all-around animal lover, with a passion for horses. She grew up in the United States, competing in the hunters, equitation, and jumpers. Now living in Ireland, she competes with her own showjumping horses. She is experienced in the care and training of horses, as well as teaching riding lessons. She loves to combine her love for horses with her work. When not working, Siun will be found at the stables, rain or shine.
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