Our Guide to Different Types of Rug
If there’s one topic that gets the equestrian industry talking year after year, it’s rugs. Knowing the different types of rugs is one thing, knowing when to put each one on is a whole different ball game! Here’s the different types on the market, as well as our top tips for easy rugging.
The turnout rug is the most popular horse rug, with many horse owners ending up with thousands – and no recollection of how they got there! There is a huge range of turnout rugs on the market, in a range of styles, colours and thicknesses.
You’ll need a few different weights of turnout rug if your horse will be living out 24/7. Thick rugs with necks and reflective strips are great for winter. Medium weight rugs are good for spring and autumn, while light rugs can be bought for the summer.
As the name suggests, stable rugs should be used inside a stable. These can be bought in various different weights to suit all temperatures. Thick stable rugs are perfect for freezing nights, while thinner versions are great for autumn and spring. Stable rugs aren’t waterproof (as they’re not designed to be used outside), and they can be purchased with or without necks.
Coolers are breathable, lightweight rugs designed to prevent chills as a horse cools down after exercise. Most useful in winter, these rugs wick away moisture and evaporate, allowing your horse to cool down gradually. These can be made from fleece, wool, mesh or any other breathable material.
While horses are usually quite happy to be worked in cold weather (although many might feel a little more sprightly!), they might fare better with an exercise rug. The hindquarters and loins can get very cold, so an exercise sheet covering these areas gives them an extra layer. If you’re hacking on the roads in winter, go for an exercise sheet with reflective strips to ensure you’re visible to oncoming cars.
Horses don’t usually mind the rain, but a good rainsheet can stop them getting wet at important times – like just before a dressage test! Remember that hacking out or schooling in the pouring rain is usually more miserable for the rider than it is the horse, especially if your horse has a nice rainsheet to keep their bottom dry.
Fleeces are breathable, warm and are a good option if you don’t have a lighter stable rug. They’re great if you’re just bringing your horse in for a few hours, and they’re also useful for keeping your horse warm and smart while travelling in colder weather. They can be used as a substitute for coolers, and worn underneath a stable rug when it’s very cold. So basically, fleece rugs are pretty versatile!
Much to the surprise of non-horsey onlookers, horses do wear rugs in summer! Fly rugs are usually made from mesh and are very lightweight, designed to provide protection from biting flies and annoying insects without increasing your horse’s temperature. Some fly rugs will come with a mask to protect your horse’s eyes and face.
Lightweight liners have a variety of uses. In very cold temperatures, they can be layered underneath a stable rug for extra warmth, while many people use them as an alternative to a stable rug during cooler summer nights. They can also be used to keep your horse clean and warm while travelling.
Rugging Top Tips
Knowing what weight of rug to put on your horse can be tricky, but it’s worth remembering that us owners are generally more likely to overdo it than underdo it.
Every horse is different, and there’s a lot to consider. Your horse should be warm underneath their rug, not hot. To check, tuck your hand into their rug behind the wither. If it’s damp, your horse is probably too hot, or if it’s cold they will need a thicker rug.
Many unclipped horses (especially native breeds) are generally fine with no rug unless it gets seriously cold – we’re talking well into the minus numbers. However, if you are worried about them losing weight you should keep them a little warmer, and always ensure your horse has enough forage as this can help regulate their temperature.
Clipped horses will generally need a rug at any temperature under 15 degrees (although this is a very rough guide). Once it gets into the minus numbers, they’ll be needing a heavyweight rug with a neck and possibly a liner underneath.
Finally, don’t rug your horse too early in the year, or they will get used to it! Just because we get cold when it turns from summer to autumn doesn’t mean your horse does, and the earlier you rug the more you’ll have to pile them on as the temperature drops.