Here it is at last, our blanket for eczema-ridden Icelandic horses. It is the ingenious hybrid solution between a fly and an eczema blanket. It combines the lightness of a fly blanket with the secure protection of an eczema blanket.
Author: Marie-Theres and Veronika Conen, Sportsfreund-Studios
We spent a long time researching, tinkering and testing to find the ideal solution for an eczema/fly rug. Have we finally designed the perfect blanket? Most likely not, the requirements for an eczema blanket are far too complex for that. But we think we are very close.
We didn't want to launch just any other eczema blanket on the market, but a really new and improved one. So we studied eczema sufferers and their blankets and thought about what their strengths and weaknesses were and whether we could improve them. As we have an eczema horse of our own, we are very close to the problem. We are now happy to present you with the solution that we and the horses are very happy with.
When does my horse need a sweet itch blanket?
Sweet itch is a skin disease caused by an allergic reaction to the saliva of gnats or other stinging insects. The horse feels intense itching, there is rubbing of the mane and tail, this in turn sometimes causes larger sores which can then be entry points for parasites, bacteria and fungi. Source: Hestakofi
Feed and care play an important role in the prevention and treatment of sweet itch. However, wearing an sweet itch rug is essential and the most reliable protection against being stung.
Unfortunately, it is not possible to say in general terms in which months a sweet itch blanket should be worn. It always depends on the weather. Normally, we would recommend using the blanket at least from April to October. However, if the weather is unusually mild in autumn or spring, it may be necessary to use it earlier or later.
Just pay attention to when your horse shows the first - even minimal - symptoms. If he has been rubbing the same spot for three days in a row, you should cover him up at the latest.
At the beginning or end of the season, however, you can reduce to wearing the neck piece alone, provided your horse has no sensitive areas elsewhere on the body.
Freshly imported Icelandic horses should always wear a sweet itch blanket during their first summers in Germany, regardless of whether they show symptoms or not.
How should the ideal sweet itch blanket do everything?
The fabric of the ideal sweet itch blanket is light, airy, waterproof and totally mosquito-proof. It is comfortable for the horse and at the same time as indestructible as chain mail.
The perfection of the cut is outstanding. The workmanship is impeccable. The price is low, but these requirements cannot be met. Because a fabric that is waterproof and absolutely indestructible cannot be light and breathable at the same time. And advanced cut technology and quality workmanship do not come cheap.
The dream idea of an sweet itch rug is almost impossible to fulfil
What we came up with!
The fabric of our blanket:
We found a fabric that is the perfect compromise. It is light as a feather and airy. This makes it comfortable to wear even on the hottest summer days.
Once the fabric gets wet, it dries in a flash. Your horse doesn't have to stand in a heavy, soaked blanket for long after a rain shower. You have no stress in case of sudden weather changes. You don't have to change your horse and can let it dry in the blanket with a clear conscience. For longer periods of rain, we still recommend having a waterproof blanket like our Softshell Rain Rugs at hand.
The extreme tightness of the fabric reliably thwarts the penetration of black flies. Furthermore, it ensures mechanical UV protection in addition to the coat. This means that there is no need for a chemical finish that would pollute the organism and the environment.
Despite its lightness, the fabric is robust. We have subjected it to hardness tests with silver forks and graters. It consists of 88% PA 6.6. This is the polyamide with the greatest hardness, stiffness, abrasion resistance and dimensional stability at higher temperatures. The remaining 12% is elastane. This makes the material stretchy and protects it from tearing.
We only use our tried and tested Velcro and fleece to fasten the blanket or tie the good old knot here and there. We completely dispense with buckles and carabiners, which regularly break anyway.
The cut of our blanket:
The first challenge was finding the right all-round fabric. We finally found it at an Austrian weaving mill for technical fabrics.
The second challenge was to pack the horse safely. We had to minimise unprotected areas where the mosquitoes get to the horse. These are often: neck, between the front legs, belly seam, udder or hose pocket and the tail. Inappropriate cuts and gaping closures are invitations to biting pests.
The third challenge was to improve the general wearing comfort for the suffering horse.
The solutions lie a) in the airy material, b) in the comfort of the blanket, namely the minimisation of pressure and constriction in the area of the withers and the base of the neck, the gaiters and the belly, c) in the safety, i.e. the protection against injuries caused by the hind legs getting caught in the belly flap or the metal carabiners, and d) in the light colour, which reflects the sun's rays, protects against heat and is unattractive to black flies because they are attracted to anything dark.
We are faced with a paradox. On the one hand, we want to make life easier for our horses and protect them from biting and stinging pests. On the other hand, we dress them in such heavy and uncomfortable blankets that we also spoil their summer again.
Eczema blanket COMFORT divided into three parts
The Neck Piece
It Neck Piece is generously cut and allows the horse maximum freedom of movement without putting pressure on withers or chest and without choking in the throat. In addition, the soft fabric does not damage the horse's mane. To avoid slipping down the neck, the neck piece, which reaches the ears, is knotted under the mop of hair with an elastic band. To fasten it to the belly, a wide bib is passed between the horse's front legs and fastened at the side with Velcro. In this way, this sensitive region, much sought after by mosquitoes, is safely covered.
The fly mask
Horses that need protection at the throat, neck, ears and face combine a Fly Mask with our set. It is cut in such a way that it reaches far under the neck piece and protects the base of the neck without gaps. The neckpiece and the mask are connected by Velcro and a tie band, so that the mask cannot be taken off by the horse.
The loose fit at the throat is particularly comfortable for the horse. The eye holes are ergonomically cut and do not hinder the horse. The eye area is protected by a soft and at the same time stable mesh fabric.
Body and belly guard
The Body of the blanket is based on the cut of our popular rain blanket. It has a sewn-in elastic wedge to relieve the withers, an elastic neckline and a particularly generous tail flap. It is cut so that it falls relatively far down and offers the greatest possible protection for the legs.
The bodysuit is fastened by means of a Belly Guard, which is invisibly attached under the blanket from the outside. The belly flap can be individually adjusted to the horse's girth and offers many adjustable fastening options. We offer a shorter version for geldings and a longer version for mares.
The belly guard is fastened tightly under the bodysuit and thus reliably protects against slipping. It is no longer possible to step into it with the hooves when rolling. The belly is safely protected from mosquitoes. For complete protection, the belly flap can be attached to the neck section with Velcro.
All parts of the sweet itch blanket are finished with smooth inner seams to protect the sensitive sweet itch skin.
We offer the sweet itch blanket both as a set and in its individual parts. For example, it makes sense to buy an additional belly bib so that there is always one in the wash. Or you only need a neck piece or a light fly bodysuit. And if one part breaks, you don't have to buy the whole blanket again. However, you only get the best function in the full set!
How to put the sweet itch blanket on your horse
The mask, neck piece and bodysuit are slip-on to minimise gaps for insects and to avoid uncomfortably tight fastenings that also break.
But don't worry, the parts are specially designed so that putting them on and taking them off is quite smooth. The openings are loosely cut and the light material "slips" quickly onto the horse. Because the blanket is divided into 3 components, the horse always has a little break before moving on to the next piece.
The cut of the sweet itch blanket is so ingenious that we can manage with one size for all ponies. It covers sizes 115, 125 and 135.
However, we also encourage you to customise the sweet itch blanket to suit your pony's needs, thus optimising the individual fit. The cut is designed from the outset so that it can be altered by non-professionals without any problems. We are happy to help you with this too.
How do I wash your blanket?
The sweet itch rug can be washed in the washing machine at 40 degrees or with a quick hand wash in between. The thin fabric has so little volume that this is quite uncomplicated.
In case of heavy stains caused by greasy care products, it is recommended to soak the affected parts with dish soap or bile soap. A quick hand wash at the stable with horse shampoo is also a good idea, especially because the individual parts have little volume.
Please remember to do this at least once a week. This way you will prevent rough soiling and do something good for the sensitive eczema skin.
How sturdy is the blanket really?
A word about stability. The blanket is repeatedly subjected to extreme stresses when it is worn, e.g. when the horse scrubs itself or gets caught. No fabric, which has to be light and airy at the same time, can withstand such extreme stresses. Then it simply happens that it gives way. And it's better that way. It is better for the blanket to tear than for the horse to get injured because it is caught and, in the worst case, panic.
Don't worry if the blanket is "destroyed" or only gets a small hole. Or if one or the other ribbon or velcro needs to be replaced. We always have enough mending material ready and will be happy to advise you on repairs. Fabric and ingredients can be sewn with any simple household sewing machine.