Choosing the Right Rug
There are so many choices out there when you come to finding rugs for your horse so what makes a great choice?
Fit for purpose is first...are you looking for an all round rug that can take you between seasons, is waterproof and built to last or are you looking for a specific use such as something for the hottest days to just keep flies off or something for the coldest days when you have clipped your horse ready for winter riding.
Summer rugs are mostly designed to help keep the horse cool and fly free. The materials are lighter and not usually water proof. Remember if water can't get in then airflow which helps keep your horse will also be reduced. Smart new fabrics can support both being water proof and breathable but these will not be as cool as the light weight cotton based sheets that are not.
Winter rugs are mostly designed to help keep the horse warm and dry. The materials are stronger and heavier. Waterproofness is a critical factor as a wet horse will get cold much more quickly and use much more energy getting dry and warm than a dry horse will.
Fit for your horse needs to be a critical factor and each brand has slight differences in their pattern that mean they will fit some horses better than others. The critical things to look for are length of the cover from wither to the top of the tail, if a cover is too long it will drag and pull on the shoulders creating a cover rug and if it is too short it will be pulled forward when the horse grazes exposing the rump and causing the back leg straps to pull up....uncomfy!
Another important factor of fit is how the cover fits around the base of the neck and the shoulders. If the rug is too tight here you will get rubbing on the points of the shoulders, possibly right at the base of the neck where the chest straps of the cover do up and if it is a 'combo' the neck rug is likely to rub on the bottom half of the neck which can rub the horses mane out.
A well fitting rug will sit well on your horse and allow them to move freely and comfortably so fit is the number one thing to get right!
There is some 'code' used in horse rugs. The first is the weight of the 'outer shell' which is usually presented as a denier number; 1200D or 600D are the most common. The larger the number the heavier the fabric reflecting some of its durability and waterproof properties (but not all). So a 1200D fabric is going to be a heavier and more likely more durable (especially when it comes to ease of ripping!) than a 600D fabric. Canvas fabrics are measured in ounces so 18oz, 12oz etc, and again the heavier numbers reflect a heavier fabric. Cotton and polyester fabrics are presented as percentage and grams such as 60% cotton and 270gm polyester fabric which tells you how much cotton is in the weave and the weight of the fabric in total.
The next main piece of jargon is 'fill', I like to think this like a duvet weight! So no-fill means there is 'no duvet' in the cover while common weights of 50, 100, 220 or 300gm have 'duvet' fill in them with 50gm fill being the lightest and 300gm fill the heaviest.
The level of fill that suits your horse will depend on your horse too. Some horses just 'run hotter' than others, just like people they have different metabolic rates that effect how easily they keep warm or get too hot. These horses will more more comfortable in a lighter weight rug than the average horse. A clipped horse will also need a heavier weight to replace the coat that has been clipped off.
You can buy 'under rugs' that are designed to go underneath your top or outer rug to increase its warmth by putting another layer on...just like wearing a t-shirt or a jersey under your rain coat! This can be an more budget friendly way of having multiple weight options for your horse to manage seasonal transitions than purchasing a whole range of paddock rugs. You can have a lighter weight main rug (waterproof and durable) and then add an extra layer to take you from Autumn to Winter which you then take back out again as you head into Spring.
The third piece of the puzzle is often how 'tough' your horse is on rugs. After having many horses in my life over the years some are just rough on their rugs and some are just extremely gentle. If you have a 'rug ripper' then you will want to make sure you purchase the heaviest (1200D vs 600D) outer fabric you can afford and make sure you buy brands with good quality fittings and webbing. Unfortunately you can only reduce the risk and make it harder for your 'rug ripper' but no rug is indestructible!
If you are new to horses or new to rugging your horse it is a good idea to get a more experienced friend to check how you are fitting your rug, making sure your leg straps and chest straps are adjusted correctly. You don't want these too tight or too loose...just like wearing a belt, if it is too tight it will keep your pants up but will be very uncomfortable and if it is too loose it won't do what it is supposed to do and your pants will sit in a funny place!
I love rugs so if you have any questions about what rug might work well for you and your horse feel free to message me at email@example.com and I'll be happy to help with my ideas and share what I have learnt over the years.