Every new horse owner will need to buy rugs, but there are so many different types! With such a huge variety on offer, it’s easy to wonder what horse rugs do I really need? And how do I measure my horse for a rug? We’ve collated a guide to help you out when ordering a new rug, so you can find the perfect fit for your horse.
What different types of rug can I buy?
There are plenty of different types of rug for every occasion, event or weather. It’s important to know which type of rug you are buying and when it’s suitable to use it, as using the wrong rug at the wrong time can make your horse very uncomfortable.
Turnout rugs are waterproof coats ideal for keeping your horse dry. They will also keep the horse clean and warm when they are outside in the field. They are sold in varying degrees of thickness and weight so that you can specifically tailor your choice of rug to your horse’s daily needs.
A stable rug, unsurprisingly, is for use while your horse is stabled. Much like the turnout rug, they are available in different thicknesses and fillings, allowing you to choose the level of protection as required. Unlike turnout rugs, these rugs are not waterproof and are only suitable for indoor use, to provide extra warmth.
In the heat of the summer, you would have a very unhappy horse in a thick turnout rug. During the warmer months of the year you’ll need to swap your turnout for a summer sheet or fly rug, a much cooler alternative. These rugs will be made of a light cotton or fine mesh weave, and are designed to offer protection against dust and biting flies, greatly increasing your horse’s comfort levels. Whether you buy a summer sheet or fly rug will depend largely on the level of fly protection required by your horse, as some are more sensitive than others. There are great solutions out there for even the most sensitive of horses, that include neck, belly and tail protection for a more effective defence.
Fleece rugs and coolers are versatile rugs that offer quick drying properties, cooling your horse down from exercise without having to worry about them catching chills. They offer breathability and are designed to absorb moisture from the horse, encouraging it to evaporate slowly and effectively. A fleece rug can also be used as a lightweight stable rug. It is perfect for travel and can be used under other heavier rugs as a liner for extra warmth.
Show sheets are smart rugs that help to keep your horse warm, clean, dry and looking “show-ready”. These rugs come in varying styles and cuts and may have multiple uses, including whilst travelling, in the stable or performing.
Exercise sheets are designed to be used whilst exercising your horse, to keep them warm and make the experience more comfortable for them. Most exercise sheets will likely have some moisture wicking properties to keep your horse cool and dry as you ride. In addition there are numerous other handy features you might want or need, like water resistance for hacking out on wetter days, or even hi-vis/reflective qualities for road riding in low light conditions. Some exercise sheets can be worn beneath the saddle, while others have a cut out section to fit over the saddle to reduce the chance of rubbing.
Liners and underblankets are designed to be used under turnout and stable rugs to increase the level of warmth without needing to buy another rug. They’re ideal as an extra layer for use throughout the winter. Much like turnout and stable rugs, they vary in degrees of weight so that you can tailor the layer to the horse’s precise needs.
How to measure for a horse rug;
An ill fitting rug will not only look strange but will also be very uncomfortable for your horse. Too big and it will rub and chafe, causing pressure on the chest and issues of slippage. Too small and it will dig in, causing a lot of discomfort.
To ensure a great fit, just follow these simple steps;
From the centre of the horse’s chest, ideally where the top chest buckle would sit, measure in a straight line around the shoulder. Follow along the belly to the furthest point of the rump. Exclude the tail from your measurements as that will add unnecessary length to your rug. This measurement will give you a guide size for your rug. Don’t be afraid to measure more than once to clarify. The last thing you want is to order a rug that will cause your horse any discomfort. Rug measurements tend to increase by 3” each size. If your measurements fall between, it is always better to go up a size.
Why not try measuring an existing rug that you know fits as well? You should measure a thin rug, such as a cotton sheet as this will give you a more accurate sizing. Make sure that you actually measure the rug rather than just take what it says on the label as truth. Chances are, your rug will have changed size over time.
When choosing a rug, you should also consider the time of year in which the horse will be using the rug. This way you can alter the weight to be in line with the weather conditions. You do not want your horse in a thick rug during warmer months. This will make them uncomfortable and they are likely to try to escape it, leaving you with a very muddy and damaged horse rug.
Does the rug fit?
When your horse is wearing the rug, you will want to ensure that it fits properly. You can see if it fits correctly in a number of ways. For example, if it extends beyond the top of your horse’s tail, then it is too big. Make sure that your horse has its head down when you are checking this, as this will pull the rug forward into the correct position. If the rug doesn’t reach the top of the tail then it’s too small.
Adjust the leg straps along with the surcingles in order to allow a hand’s width between the strap and the horse’s body. This will allow your horse more freedom and comfort. If you don’t take this measurement, then your horse could get his legs caught in the straps or it could rub.
Adjust the front straps to ensure that the top of the rug sits nicely in front of the wither. If it fits behind it, then it can pull back and cause rubbing or sores. You should also be able to easily insert your hand down the front of the rug. You should also see that it is mobile enough to move your hand backwards and forwards over the horse’s coat.
If the neck of the rug is too large, then it will most probably hang off the back of the horse. This can put pressure on the animal’s shoulders and again, can cause rubbing.
Now you’ve been armed with these handy tips, we hope that you’ll find choosing the right style and size of rug a bit easier. And don’t worry if you don’t get it right first time, there are lots of brands of rugs that all vary in style and fit, so there’s bound to be a rug out there that’s perfect for your horse!