Choosing the right rug

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  • There are a large number of different rugs on the market and it¨s well worth looking at a variety of types and brands before you buy.

    Always bear in mind your horse’s requirements – a Thoroughbred who is stabled most of the year will need warmer rugs than a hardy cob who lives out most of the time.

    The outsider

    Turnout rugs used to be made of waterproofed cotton canvas, but increasingly high-tech materials now have the edge.

  • Ripstop is cotton canvas with polyester fibres woven through it to make it stronger.
  • Nylon appears in many different strengths, from around 600-denier upwards.
  • Ballistic nylon, which is the material used to make the outer layer of bullet-proof vests, is increasingly used for turnout rugs.

    None of these materials are naturally waterproof enough for outdoor use, so they have to be chemically proofed. A breathable proofing such as Poromeric or Hydrophilic allows moisture to evaporate away from the horse’s coat and out of the rug.

    Some lightweight, breathable turnout rugs are also suitable for indoor use.

    Stable warmth

    Today’s alternatives to the traditional wool or jute stable rugs are often wicking, dust-repellent, stain-resistant, washable and tough.

    Nylon linings can cause problems with friction, especially if they are used in turnout rugs for active horses. However, those with anti-static properties can help draw dust away from the horse¨s coat.

    Cotton quilting can come in a number of different thicknesses to suit different horses and weather conditions.

    Other modern materials include:

  • Flectalon – a thermal material which, when placed inside the lining, reflects the horse’s body heat back, therefore trapping warmth.
  • Thinsulate – a synthetic simulation of the fine down animals grow next to their skin to keep them warm.

    Many rugs have some kind of soft padding around the neck and chest to help prevent pressure and friction, or alternatively you can use a bib.


    The front straps of a rug are the most crucial, as these come into closest contact with the horse. For all but the most lightweight rug, you need two straps – tough enough for the weight of the rug but flexible enough to be easy to use and punch holes in. They should fit snugly, to keep the rug in place.

    Cross surcingles eliminate the need for pressure on the spine.

    In a turn-out rug, look for surcingles that start as low down as possible so there is less stitching for moisture to possibly get through. If you use a roller, use one with pads on either side of the spine or cut a piece of foam to put under it.


    A different rug for each season is ideal, however, a medium-weight rug with extra layers makes a practical alternative.

    A fleece, blanket or quilted lining is ideal under a stable rug and some can alsobe used under turnout rugs. Coolers can also be used as under-rugs, and some are warm enough to leave on as a day rug, or even overnight in spring and autumn (with a roller), as well as doubling as a travel rug.

    Detachable or separate neck covers and hoods trap a lot of warmth, as well as keeping mud off, and can be used when the weather gets colder.

    While some turnout rugs are also suitable for indoor use, there are now several warm stable rugs that can be safely put on a damp horse, as the breathable fabric will wick away the moisture and dry quickly.

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