Horse Rugs Buyer's Guide
The Ultimate Guide to Horse Rugs
Looking for the right horse rugs to keep your horse healthy, well groomed and protected from the elements? Not sure which is the right rug for your horse?
If you are a new horse owner, you may not be sure which rugs your horse needs. The wide variety of types, styles and designs of horse rugs available can be confusing and overwhelming.
This guide covers the five main types of horse rugs suitable for warmer weather, and explains what each rug is best suited to.
Turn Out Rugs
Do You Need To Rug Your Horse Year Round?
Whether you horse ride for pleasure or competition, having a selection of well fitting rugs can keep your horse comfortable, healthy, dry and clean in all seasons and weathers - in his stable, when he is turned out, whilst travelling, and at horse shows.
Horse rugs are designed for specific purposes:
- Keeping your horse warm and dry in all weathers – indoors and outdoors
- Protecting him from aggravating biting insects
- Preventing his coat from bleaching and harmful UV rays
- Helping his muscles cool down safely after exercise
- Keeping him clean in mucky conditions and for horse shows
There are 5 main types of horse rugs to choose from.
Generally made from lightweight materials like cotton, mild weather stable rugs are designed to be worn indoors, whilst travelling in a horse box, or at the horse show to keep your horse warm and clean.
These rugs may be plain, quilted or padded, but are not water proof which makes them unsuitable for outdoor use. However, when the temperature drops, stable rugs you can buy a heavywieght stable or layer up on stable rugs.
Rugs with soft fleece pad along the wither and anti-rub chest lining to protect your horse from uncomfortable pressure points and rubs.
FLEECE RUGS AND COOLERS
Fleece rugs and coolers are a multi-functional part of your horse’s wardrobe.
They are mainly used when post and pre exercise
- to help his muscles warm up pre-exercise
- to prevent his muscles from cooling down too quickly
- to keep him warm and clean before and between classes at horse shows
Made from breathable, moisture wicking fabrics, they draw sweat and moisture away from your horse’s body to the outside of the rug helping the coat to dry quickly.
A lightweight cooler is also ideal for your horse to wear whilst travelling or between classes at horse shows to keep him clean and comfortable. They also work well as an extra layer under a turn out rug on colder days.
Warm weather horse coolers (also called scrims) are made of light weight materials, like waffle weave, and can have net panels. (e.g. Weatherbeeta Scrim Cooler)
Fleece rugs and wool coolers are only suitable for colder weather.
Adjustable chest straps ensure a good fit. Low cross surcingles and fillet strings help prevent the rug from shifting.
TURN OUT RUGS
Regardless of the season, your horse’s turn out rug needs to be durable and breathable. Some turn out rugs are waterproof, however ther do not have to be – the Breeze and Kool Coat rugs aren’t waterproof, but are summer turnout rugs to protect from UV rays and biting insects.
It needs to hold up under all the normal activities horses engage in when turned out – rolling, rubbing, and running movement – as well as the biting and tugging of enthusiastic “horse play”.
Why would your horse need to be turned out with a rug in the fine, warm days of spring and summer?
Made with breathable materials (like content mixes), light weight summer turn out rugs (also called “sheets”):
- keep your horse cool in the sun
- prevent his coat from fading
- keep him clean
- provide UV protection
It is important that your horse does not overheat. So, you should occasionally check how warm he is by feeling along his neck and rib cage to ensure he is not sweating under his rug.
Choose the correct weight of rug for the weather – heavy weight for freezing temperatures in winter, medium weight for spring/autumn and light weight for summer. (e.g. Weatherbeeta Breeze With Surcingle Combo Neck)
Rain sheets are waterproof, and more lightweight than regular turn out rugs. They are available with or without linings and can be worn on their own or layered over an under sheet, stable blanket or cooler.
Rain sheets are available in two designs for two different purposes:
- Weatherbeeta's primary focus is using the rain sheet to keep your tack dry and clean at competitions/shows. Although the rain sheets are durable and waterproof, they are not categorised as turnout rugs.
- This style is designed to easily be put on and taken off. It has quick and easy front closures, slots for stirrups, a loop to attach to the bridle and a tail cord. (e.g. Weatherbeeta Rain Sheet)
Exercise sheets are designed to keep your horse’s back and hindquarter muscles warm whilst being ridden. Can help with injury prevention but help keep your horse warm cold fresh days and high viz is good for when hacking out on roads .
They are available in different weights to suit the weather conditions. Other options include:
- Reflective fabrics provide high visibility for hacking out
- Multi-layered polyester knit fabric provides warmth while wicking away moisture
- Water repellent outer shell with breathable polycotton lining and mesh panels to keep your horse dry without overheating (e.g. Weatherbeeta 600D Mesh Exercise Sheet)
- Wool or fleece fabric provides extra warmth and wicking in colder weather.
- Contoured shape keeps your legs in contact with your horse
Whether you’re riding inside or outside, an exercise sheet is functional and looks smart, too.
Fly sheets are primarily used in summer to protect your horse from biting flies and other annoying insects whilst allowing air flow through the rug.
Some fly sheets also provide UV protection from the sun which protects your horse’s skin and his coat from bleaching.
Fly sheets are light weight and are made from breathable mesh or net materials or combined with a polycotton blend. (e.g. Masta SS18 TEX Basic Fly Rug)
Add a Fly Mask to protect your horse’s face from flies and the sun’s damaging rays. Masks can cover just the eyes, eyes and ears, or the eyes, ears and nose. (e.g. Masta UV Fly Mask)
When fitting your horse’s fly mask, make sure it fits securely around is jowls without creating pressure on his poll or pressing on his eyes or lashes.
Look for these features:
- UV protection
This is a buying guide subject area in its own right.
Key Features On Turn Out Rugs:
- Chest Buckles
- Tailored Shoulder Gussets,
- Adjustable Lower Surcingles,
- Fillet Strings
- Detachable Leg Straps
- Anti-Rub Chest Lining
- Standard Neck – the classic style that ends at the withers and is good for warmer weather
- High Neck – finishes above the withers and prevents pressure points on the withers
- Full Neck – extends the full length of the neck preventing rain and snow from draining down the neck and inside the shoulder area
- Detachable Neck – can be added or removed from the rug according to weather conditions
- Tail Flap – covers the top of the tail giving added protection from winds and driving rain
What is Denier and Why Should You Care?
Horse rugs are commonly rated as 600D, 1200D or 1680D. The higher the denier count the higher the thread weave and the durability of the material.
What Weight of Rug Do You Need?
Different weights of rugs are available to keep your horse comfortable in all seasons:
- lightweight (with no fill) cotton mixes, mesh or net fabrics for warm days of summer
- lightweight (up to 100 – 150 g) or medium weight (200 – 300 g) for cool spring and autumn weather
- heavy weight (300 - 500g) for freezing temperatures in winter
With fluctuating weather and temperature, it is ideal to have different weights or rugs you can layer to ensure your horse is kept warm, but without overheating.
How To Choose Which Rugs To Put On Your Horse
Horses have a natural thermoregulation system that keeps their internal body temperature at approximately 38C. Health problems can happen when their temperature fluctuates outside of the normal range. So, it is important to understand and respect that natural mechanism.
Every horse is an individual and should be treated as such. So, get to know your horse.
Your horse will feel the wet and cold more if he:
- is under weight or has a hard time maintaining his weight
- has a thin or flat coat
- has limited access to hay or grass
- does not have access to shelter when turned outdoors
- spends many hours standing in a stable
- has been clipped
- is exercised heavily
How To Correctly Fit Your Horse Rug
A correctly fitting horse rug will protect your horse from the elements and allow him move comfortably and naturally without creating any pressure points or rubs.
An ill fitting rug is not only uncomfortable, but can cause an injury if it slips or your horse gets a leg caught in it.
If you have never put on a horse rug or your horse has never worn one, get help from your coach trainer or other experienced horse person.
- Fold the rug in half bringing the tail end up towards the neck.
- Place the folded rug over your horse’s back with the chest straps over the shoulders.
- Do up the chest straps ensuring you can slide your hand down the neck of the rug.
- Check that the fit in the wither and shoulders is not tight, but allows your horse to move freely without the rug slipping back.
- Unfold the rug gently sliding into place along his back so that his coat lies flat.
- The end of the rug or, if it has a tail flap, the seam where the tail flap joins, should sit just past the top of your horse’s tail. If it sits below that point, the blanket may be too big.
- Low surcingles should cross in the centre of your horse’s tummy – well forward of his stifle. There should be a hand’s width between the straps and the horse’s body.
- If the rug has leg straps, pass the left leg strap between the hind legs and fasten to the D-ring at the back edge on the left side.
- Pass the right leg strap between the hind legs, through the loop of the left leg strap, and fasten to the D-ring at the back edge on the right side.
- Crossing the leg straps in this way prevents rubbing and helps keep the rug in place.
- To allow freedom of movement, adjust the leg straps until there is room for the width of one hand (approximately 4 – 5 inches) between the leg straps and your horse’s thigh.
Remove your horse’s rugs daily to check for any sign of rubbing, letting in moisture or signs of skin problems as well as for changes in weight (gain or loss).
Rugged horses need to be groomed thoroughly and regularly to get prevent the build up of oils, dirt and loose hair.
How To Measure Your Horse
Different manufacturers may have different sizing recommendations. So be sure to check the specific brand’s website before purchasing your horse rug.
Use the following steps as a guide to measuring your horse for the best fit:
- Enlist a friend to help with the measurements.
- Place a soft tape measure at the centre of your horse’s chest level with the widest part of his shoulder.
- Take the tape along one side of his body to the widest part of his hindquarter (where you expect the rug to end).
- Turn out rugs are usually sized in 3 inch increments (e.g. 69”, 72”, 75”, etc.) If your horse is between sizes, choose the smaller size.
How To Care For Your Horse Rugs
Horse rugs are subject to wear and tear from regular use throughout a season. A good maintenance routine will help extend the life of your horse rugs. No matter the quality or cost of your rug they are still made from fabric and are likely to experience damage at some stage, no matter how 'rug friendly' your horse is.
No matter how well made, no horse rug is completely indestructible. It is inevitable that your horse’s turn out rug will suffer some wear and tear.
Check for small tears in the fabric and the condition of buckles, surcingles and leg straps frequently. Having small damages repaired as soon as you notice them will extend the life of your rugs.
A good rug repair service can replace broken straps and buckles and mend rips and tears.
Before storing your rugs at the end of the season:
- gently brush off any dirt on the outside of the rug and spot clean
- use a curry comb or vacuum to remove hair from the lining of the rug
- follow the manufacturer’s washing instructions or take to a professional rug washing service
- give a good airing out and ensure it is dried well before putting into storage
- check the leg straps, buckles, surcingles, fillet strings as well as any D-rings for wear and tear and have any damaged areas repaired or replaced
- Canvas rugs can be re-proofed and allowed to dry
Keep your rugs clean and ready for next by season by storing them in an air tight, rodent proof bin.
Still Not Sure? Just Ask – We’re Here To Help
If you require any more help on choosing the right equestrian attire for your needs, one of our expertly trained members of staff will be more than happy to assist. For online enquiries, please contact our customer service team on 01702 597833