With hundreds of rugs to choose from, how do you select the best for your horse? Stephanie Bateman puts seven of the newest turnout rugs to the test
1. Bucas Smartex Medium
Special features: a stainless steel click’n go fastening with magnetic ‘snap-lock’ front panel means less overlap at the chest, and internal clip-close surcingles prevent them becoming caught and keep them clean.
Technical info: made from a ballistic nylon outer shell which is waterproof, breathable and tough, this rug features the Bucas stay-dry lining, which wicks moisture away from the horse’s skin and is available in a big neck version for horses with large, deep necks. Also available in two other weights (“rain” and “extra”), with the option of separate neck attachments.
Tester: Liz Black owns 21-year-old Welsh section D gelding Jack, whom she competes at elementary level dressage. “This is a smart looking rug made from good quality materials,” says Liz. “It fits well, is roomy over the shoulders and quarters, and the tail flap is deep. I like the lining of the rug, but I’m not so keen on the front fastenings, which I find a bit fiddly.”
Star rating: ****
Colours: blue, black, chocolate
2. Shires Highlander Original Lite
Special features: a breathable ShireTex outer, taped seams, deep shoulder gussets and WarmaRug compatible — upgrade the rug’s warmth using separate rug liners in 100g or 200g, which quickly
and easily attach to the shoulder loops and fillet D-rings.
Technical info: key features include a ripstop 600 denier waterproof outer, full lining, twin buckle breast fastenings, adjustable cross-surcingles and fillet strap, integrated leg strap loops and tail flap.
Tester: Chris Young owns Desmond, a 10-year-old warmblood/thoroughbred eventer. “The rug fits incredibly well and sits nicely on the horse,” Chris says. “The vents and pleats allow plenty of room in the shoulder and because of the excellent fit, it doesn’t move. I’m not keen on the front straps as they wear quickly and can be fiddly, and the jockey print isn’t to everyone’s taste.”
Star rating: ***
Colours: petrol two-tone, limited edition jockey print
3. John Whitaker Full Neck Combo 350g
Special features: pleated Union flag gussets, fully adjustable double surcingle straps and D-ring clasps across the chest help to make this rug a comfortable fit for your horse.
Technical info: features a Teflon coated outer, padded Velcro chest, detachable hood with Velcro and zip neck line, waterproof tail guard and elasticated leg straps.
Tester: Keith Robertson rides Anna Ross’ 16-year-old Dutch warmblood dressage mare Flora. “She is a dedicated rug destroyer, but the material appears to be hard-wearing and robust,” says Keith. “I like the guard cover over the front buckles and the rug is true to size in length and is a nice depth. The neck is a little on the long side for this mare but it is very easy to detach via a zip. The rug is extremely easy to put on and take off, and the thickness is fantastic — I really feel that it will keep her warm. My only concern is that water might leak in through the neck zip when the horse’s head is down.”
Star rating: ****
Price: from £140
4. Mark Todd Heavyweight Turnout Rug
Special features: manufactured in Teflon-coated 1,200 denier waterproof and breathable rip-stop fabric, this turnout has a 350g fill and a nylon anti-rub lining.
Technical info: features include adjustable quick-release chest fastenings, cross-surcingles, anti-rub shoulder panels, leg straps and a generous tail flap with reflective strip. Neck cover sold separately.
Tester: Katie Jaye-Lipton and Louis enjoy hacking and competing in dressage. Louis suffers from rubbed shoulders.
“The rug is smart and unfussy in appearance, which I like, and it is very light to handle even though it is a heavyweight,” reports Katie. “I like the reflective binding around the edges and the rug fits very well. It offers good coverage from front to back. The fastenings are easy to use and the neck cover is easy to attach. The materials feel very hard-wearing but light, and the lining is lovely and soft to prevent rubbing.”
Star rating: *****
Colours: navy, aqua
Price: £124.99 (neck cover £69.99)
5. Weatherbeeta 1200D Freestyle Detach-A-Neck
Special features: has a tough, waterproof and breathable 1,200 denier triple-weave shell for extra strength, 360g of fill and 210 denier Oxford polyester lining to keep the horse’s coat shiny. Cupped shoulder darts and forward position gussets allow a better range of movement.
Technical info: the snug fit fleece neck cuff prevents wind and rain driving down the horse’s neck, and custom shaped wither pads prevent rubbing.
Tester: Keith Robertson rides his 17.3hh 11-year-old Danish warmblood Boheme at grand prix level dressage. “This rug appears secure and has elastic inserts in the leg straps for freedom of movement,” Keith says. “It has good depth and length, but for such a substantial horse, it is a little snug around the shoulders. The clips and buckles are easy and functional, and the materials seem heavy duty, strong and warm. The easily detachable Velcro neck is ideal for a horse susceptible to losing the mane, and I like the extra padded edges around the front of the rug. The removable polar fleece lining in the neck is an interesting addition, although I question if it will stay in place.”
Star rating: ****
Colours: navy/grey/white, black/teal/plaid, burgundy/grey/plaid
6. Limited Edition 30th Year Rambo Duo
Special features: made from waterproof and breathable 1,000 denier ballistic nylon, heat-retaining thermobonded 100g fiberfill inner and anti-static and antibacterial polyester lining, kept in place with a liner loop system.
Technical info: a surefit neck design with V-front closure to ensure free movement, leg arches, reflective safety strips, wipe clean tail cord, detachable hood with liner loops, and three secure cross-surcingles.
Tester: Alice Collins competes eight-year-old warmblood mare Fab in dressage. “I like how easy the neck and inner is to attach to the outer, and it is an excellent fit in the body and generous in the neck, which I like,” says Alice. “Once the two rugs are correctly aligned, it stays in place, but needs to be put on carefully. I like the triple belly straps and they are easy to do up. The clips at the chest are heavy-duty and very good for standing up to use over a hard winter. The materials are excellent quality and smooth but tough. I wonder whether leg gussets would help with the fit of the shoulder, but the smoothness of the lining means it doesn’t rub the withers or the mane. I love that it’s basically two rugs in one.”
Star rating: *****
Colours: green with red trim
7. Premier Equine Storm Buster 450
Special features: made from robust 1,680 denier ballistic nylon, this rug is ideal for horses prone to ripping rugs, and the integrated neck cover is seamless over the withers making it great for horses suffering from rubs in that area.
Technical info: features include a snug fit integrated neck cover, antibacterial breathable nylon lining, elasticated shoulder gusset, padded tail flap, and self-righting properties.
Tester: Jane Price owns Rusty, a 12-year-old Irish gelding. They compete in dressage. “My first impressions of this rug are that it is very smart and I really like the integrated neck cover which is seamless,” says Jane. “It fits perfectly, is snug in all the right places and the shoulder vents allow for extra movement. I particularly like the elastic around the neck cover. It’s easy to take on and off and I like the choice of two front fastenings, plus Velcro over the neck cover straps. I also like the covered fillet string rather than rear leg straps.”
Star rating: *****
Colours: Navy/green & navy trim, black/green & black trim