Sweet itch can be a summer nightmare for horse owners, and the best sweet itch rugs can help prevent midges from accessing your horse in the first place. Caused by an allergic reaction to the bite of the midge, sweet itch is an unpleasant itching sensation that leads the horse to bite, scratch or rub at their skin. It most commonly affects the base of the mane and tail.
It’s important to be aware that these “sweet itch rugs” will not treat your horse or cure him from the condition and are not a replacement for veterinary treatment. They, however, can be used as a preventative measure to reduce the chance of a horse who is prone to the condition from being bitten in the first place. Most cases are seen between March and October, so purchasing a rug and putting it on your horse before the season starts is best – once your horse is suffering he will already be itching and likely damage even the most robust of rugs.
How to choose a sweet itch rug
The best sweet itch rugs tend to offer more coverage than even the best fly rugs so as to provide maximum protection, but as they are worn throughout the summer months, it’s especially important that they are lightweight and breathable.
Choose one with excellent coverage – look for extra-large tail flaps, belly coverage and extended necks. Consider fastenings – the more there are the more covered your horse is likely to be, but if he’s not a fan of you fussing around him they need to be quick and easy to do up and undo. Chest fastenings usually have the most variation – while surcingle type hooks are quick and easy, they don’t offer anything in the way of adjustability, whereas adjustable buckles can be fiddly to use. The gold standard is usually buckle for adjustment with quick clips for fastening, but this is likely to result in a more expensive rug.
Best protective fly rugs to keep out midges that cause sweet itch
WeatherBeeta Sweet Itch Shield Combo Neck
Sizes: 4ft – 7ft 3in
UV protection: 90%+
This Weatherbeeta rug offers head-to-tail protection for sensitive horses, shielding them from 90% UV rays, sun bleaching, parasites and insects. Made from a strong and breathable 600D ripstop outer, it has lined shoulders to help prevent rubbing and stretching, and an elasticated and adjustable belly wrap and full wrap tail flap. It also features an ear hood with elastic insert around the ears to ensure the neck stays in place.
Shires Highlander Plus Sweet-Itch Combo
Sizes: 4ft – 7ft 3in
UV protection: 90%
Ideal for all-round summer protection against biting insects and sun bleaching, this Shires rug features a “grazing-friendly“ hood and large pleated tail flap to help keep the body, neck and poll covered at all times. The hardwearing and breathable fabric is 90% UV blocking. It also has a belly flap, deep shoulder gussets, buckle chest straps and adjustable fillet strap and leg strap loops.
Mark Todd Pro Sweet Itch Combo Rug
Sizes: 5ft 6in – 7ft
Providing protection against biting insects and UV rays, this lightweight rug from Mark Todd is breathable and kind to the skin. It features belly straps and hidden band, plus has the addition of rubber surcingle slots to ensure even better coverage with less gaping. The hood has a stretch panel for flexibility when grazing and ensures a snug fit to prevent bugs from getting inside.
Snuggy Hoods Sweet Itch Rug
Colours: Beige, brown or haint blue
Sizes: 4ft 6in – 7ft
This Snuggy Hoods rug offers total protection from midges, biting insects, flies and harmful UV rays. It has full belly coverage, an elasticated and padded chest and withers, and double tail protection with a tail wrap and extra-large flap. It is also mud-proof and water-repellent, and prevents coat bleaching. You can add a hood or headless hood to maximise your coverage. You can further customise the coverage by adding front legs, an udder cover or sheath cover.
We’ve had this rug on test and, while it’s fairly pricey, it’s a really worthwhile investment. It fitted our very sensitive tester really well and provided great coverage. It’s made of a thicker material so doesn’t rip, but our horse was still comfortable in it in the hottest summer days. It’s tricky to put on at first, especially if you have the extras, but once you and your horse are used to it it’s easy enough.
In the UK? Check ebay.co.uk
Masta Combo Sweet Itch Fly Rug
Sizes: 5ft – 7ft 6in
Made from a soft, close-knit polyester fabric that remains highly breathable, this rug can help keep your horse keep cool against the heat of the sun and prevent dark coats from bleaching. It has a longer cut, integrated neck cover with fleece-lined ear holes that gives full coverage even when grazing. It’s secured with touch-tape fastenings and the the top one has an elastic insert allowing for added comfort around the face.
The wrap-around belly provides extra protection to the more sensitive areas of the horse and is secured with three surcingles. It has an anti-rub lining along the neck and over the shoulders to prevent rubbing.
In the UK? View now at amazon.co.uk
Equilibrium Field Relief Fly Rug
Sizes: 5ft 6in – 7ft
H&H Review: 9/10, H&H Approved
Designed in yellow as research suggests this deters flies, this lightweight and breathable rug from Equilibrium has adjustable straps and a stretch hood that sits over the ears. It features an anti-rub lining on the neck, over the withers and at the chest.
We had this rug on test and found it to be worth the money as it’s strong and hard-wearing. We loved the anti-rub lining, the belly flap and the ear holes that helped the neck stay up. It also helped to keep our tester cool – he never came in sweaty throughout the summer. Read the full Equilibrium fly rug review.
Premier Equine Sweet Itch Buster Fly Rug With Belly Flap
Sizes: 5ft – 7ft 3in
UV protection: 100%
Offering head-to-tail protection from biting insects and the sun’s rays, this lightweight breathable 1000D rug from Premier Equine is hard-wearing and 100% UV reflective. It features an antibacterial, breathable lining over the shoulder and neck area to prevent rubbing, as well as an integrated wrap-around belly flap and super-size double-thickness tail flap for extra protection.
In the UK? View now at ebay.co.uk
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