With so many different rugs on the market, how do you choose the best one?
There are a large number of different rugs on the market and it's well worth looking at a variety of types before you buy.
Turnout rugs used to be made of waterproofed cotton canvas, but increasingly high-tech materials now have the edge.
Canvas rugs are still popular and are hard wearing and well priced. The waterproofing performance of the canvas horse rug is much less than synthetic rugs and will deteriorate over time however there are many reproofing products available from the saddlery that will restore weatherproofing to some degree. We prefer to call these rugs showerproof only as compared to syhthetic rugs this is amore accurate description of their performance. A canvas rug will not be 100% waterproof in all weather conditions, no matter what other retailers may say, but they are still a great choice if you want a natural fabric on your horse. If you also have a synthetic rug available then you can use this in very wet weather and get the best of both.
Synthetic horse rugs are generally available in blends of polyester and nylon. Rugs are available in 600 denier fabric up to 1680 denier fabric. The denier rating refers to the thickness of the thread, the higher the denier rating the thicker the thread and the thicker and more durable the fabric but also the more expensive the fabric.
Ballistic nylon, which is the material used to make the outer layer of bullet-proof vests, is increasingly used for turnout rugs. GoHorse sells the Pindar rug in 1680 denier ballistic nylon and it is extremely tough fabric.
None of these materials are naturally waterproof enough for outdoor use, so they have to be chemically proofed with an internal coating to provide waterproof and breathable performance. A breathable hydrophilic proofing allows moisture to evaporate away from the horse's coat and out of the rug.
Synthetic rugs have a lining and common linings are nylon, polycotton, mesh or polar fleece. The polar fleece lining provides a rug with additional warmth while the cotton gives a natural feel and nylon is a premium lining that is easy care, long lasting and gentle on your horses coat.
GoHorse horse rugs generally have a 210 denier nylon lining which is easier to keep clean, stronger and provides a good coat shine. Some other manufactures use a cheaper thin nylon. Polycotton is cheaper and provides a natural lining but is less durable.
Lightweight, breathable turnout rugs are also suitable for indoor use stable use.
Synthetic rugs are also available as a blanket horse rug with a channel quilted poly fill between the outer shell and the lining. These rugs provide a high level of warmth and act just like a dooner on your bed. Different thickness of polyfill material are available however we have found 300g fill provides excellent performance for most locations in Australia. Over time the fill will flatten and lose the ability to hold pockets of air which holds the warmth, a 300g fill will maintain its performance over several seasons unlike lightly padded rugs. You can also add an underblanket for even extra warmth during the coldest days of the year. GoHorse sell rugs with 300g polyfill.
Today's alternatives to the traditional wool or jute stable rugs are wicking, dust-repellent, stain-resistant, washable and tough polar fleece rugs.
These rugs are a general purpose rug that can be used alone for a horse that is travelling, in a stable or just standing around at a show and needs to be kept warm. The rug can also be layered with weatherproof rugs to provide extra warmth.
Better rugs have features such as twin chest straps, lined shoulders, leg straps and full binding along all edges and across the backline.
GoHorse has a range of different styles, designs and colours. There are cheaper versions available but for a slightly higer price you will get a much thicker and longer lasting fabric with better fittings and fit.
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 fasten. They should fit snugly but not tight, to keep the rug in place.
Cross surcingles keep the rug securely and comfortably in place aand this is particularly important for heavier rugs.
Good quality buckles and clips are also important, unless they are corrosion resistant then rusting will soon make them difficult if not impossible to use. GoHorse only uses high quality chorme and nickel plated corrosion resistant fittings.
A different rug for each season is ideal, however, a medium-weight rug with extra layers makes a practical alternative.
A fleece or blanket is ideal under a stable rug and can also be 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, 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.