The Ultimate Rug Guide

Did anyone else see the weather forecast this week where they said they expect it to reach -20 degrees Celsius over the winter?! That's madness! So I've been trying to get prepared and stock up on an extra rug (or two) so that Liath is kept really warm and toasty throughout the whole of winter ... no matter what the weather! I have a HUGE weak spot for buying rugs - it's just one of those things you can never really have too many of :)

I've had more then my fair share of hit and miss when it comes to rugs (I've an awful rug addiction ... if it's on sale I HAVE to buy it!). Gone are the days of big, heavy and cumbersome canvas and jute rugs ... now it's so easy and convenient to pick up pretty rugs in a whole range of designs and colours. Today's fabrics normally contain polyester which makes then light weight, stronger, hardier and gives them great wicking properties. 

Rugs are measured by "dernier", which is the linear mass measurement of fibres. For example, a single strand of silk is one denier, a light and breathable fabric would be about 600 denier while a stronger but heavier fabric will have a much higher denier number. This number is most important when referring to the outer layer of a rug as it needs to be strong enough to put up with a horse rolling, rubbing as well as walking through trees and bushes. I've found that the pretty and cute rugs are usually on the lower end of the denier scale while the boring but strong rugs are at the top end of the scale ... some up to 1600 denier!

It's always nice to have a rug with a cute design but it really is worth spending time checking out the deniers of various rugs. The higher the denier the stronger the rug so it should, in theory, last longer. I've a Horseware rug going on 9 years old this Winter and it's still as strong and as waterproof as the day I bought it ... it was quite expensive but just goes to show you really do get what you pay for (as opposed to a cheapy rugs that ripped when Monty rolled ...grrrr!)

Rug Weights and Fills
The next layer in a rug is the "fill", which is a polyester spun material. This is basically the stuff that keeps the horse warm! It works by trapping body heat against the outer shell of the rug. Today's rugs are able to transfer moisture from the horse to outside the rug without losing any heat or warmth.  If it didn't transfer moisture then the rug would become damp and soggy. If you take a look at any rugs on the market the fill is measured in grams with 100 grams considered a light weight rug, 200 grams a medium and 300 or more considered a heavyweight. (Some go right up to 450 grams which is ideal for thin skinned, sensitive or old horses who need the extra fill just to keep comfortable and toasty!)

Still looking good 9 years later! (Horseware Rambo Exel)

Shoulder Gussets
These are designed to provide room for the front legs to move back and forth as the horse moves about. Most of my Horseware rugs don't have these and, to be honest, it has never caused a problem. They don't suffer from rubbed shoulders because there is no gusset so don't let gusset free rugs put you off!

The surcingles are usually in a criss cross pattern and buckle quite low on the horse. The reason for this is that if they were located high up on the rug then they could be rubbed open when the horse rolls. They are also less likely to catch on twigs and branches and accidentally open. 

Front Fastenings
Usually consist of a strap, buckle and a clip so you can adjust the front to fit your horses neck. You adjust it once then just snap and unsnap the clip for the rest of the winter ... pretty handy as it stops any messing around with little fiddly straps! These are handy for those horses with big chests and who might need the front widened. Personally, I prefer the double surcingle front closing system as they consist of a wider strap and you're never left with any gaping gaps at the front. It really is down to personal preference though...

Buckle VS. Surcingle front fastening 

Leg Straps
These vary hugely from manufacturer to manufacturer. Some rugs come with straps on the end of the rugs that inter-twine at the horses legs and then connect to rings on the inside side of the blanket. Another type is simply a strap that runs under the tail from ring to ring at the back of the rug.
They help keep the rug in place, stop it moving and keeps it from blowing up and folding over. The more a rug moves about, the more chance it has of falling off, getting tangled in the horse’s feet, being destroyed and possibly injuring the horse.

Tail Cover
These are on almost every outdoor rug now a days. The consist of a piece of material that covers the horses bum and stops cold air from going up and under the rug as well as keeping some of the horses tail clean :)

Neck Cover/Hoods
These are a fab addition to horse rugs. They are either permanently attached to the rug or are removable (ie. attached via velcro or buckles). Most people use them to keep in that little bit of extra heat whereas some people (myself included) use them to keep the horses mane and neck clean and mud free!

Snug as a bug in a rug! (Horseware Optimo)

The main goal when buying a winter rug is making sure it is a good fit for the horse and then to buy the best quality (highest denier) you can afford. Not every style and size will fit every horse, so its worth trying on a few different brands and sizes and see what works best... this is far easier if you are on a livery yard! One tip I would give is don't let any fancy designs sway your decision when buying a rug .. they literally only look good for ten minutes and eventually turn a lovely brown colour from the horse rolling - my rugs all look the same colour a month into winter! 

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