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You might think that putting a rug on your horse was a fairly simple affair … well, you’d be wrong.

Over the years, rugging your horse has become an ever more complicated process with different weights, types and designs to confuse and bamboozle the novice horse owner.

Furthermore, and possibly as a consequence of this ever-growing market, a tendency to over-rug has now become an issue.

Though over-rugging usually comes from a good place, it can be detrimental to the health of your horse and even lead to obesity issues which can trigger a whole host of ailments. So, before buying a rug it’s important to understand what they do and why your horse might need one.

Image by Penny from Pixabay

A Weight Issue

The thickness, or fill, of a horse rug refers to the amount of padding it provides, and that is typically measured in grams per square metre (gsm) or denier. A higher fill rating or denier indicates a thicker and warmer rug, while a lower rating indicates a thinner, lighter rug.

When choosing the right thickness of rug, you need take into account whether you have clipped your horse or not. Obviously if you have removed part or all of their winter coat, then a thicker rug will be required.

You also need to consider the amount of time they spend in their stable or whether they are out 24/7 in a field. If your horse is tucked up in a cosy stable at night, then they are going to need a less weighted rug than a horse out in his field battling the elements.

While we aren’t here to tell you which rug to put on your horse, there are some tried-and-tested guidelines to help you decide:

  • If the temperature is above 15°C no horse should really need a rug. You may choose to use a summer sheet or fly rug depending on your circumstances;

  • If the temperature is below 0°C then most horses would appreciate a rug. The thickness of the rug will depend on turnout or stable, and clipped or unclipped;

  • For any temperature in between these two parameters, you may need to experiment with various weights to see what suits your horse best;

  • Check your horse to see how warm they are when you can. If your horse seems hot and is sweating then you need to reduce the thickness.

If you want to know more about temperature specifics, there are many reputable rug guides to be found online that go into more detail.


Once you’ve decided on the weight of the rug you need, it’s time to turn to functionality and design, and yes, there are many, many options.

Image by Albrecht Fietz from Pixabay


  • V Front Closure. With trigger hook fastenings facing the chest of the horse to prevent them from opening or catching on things, this design eliminates pressure on the shoulders, something that makes it is especially suitable for bigger built horses;

  • Buckle Front Closure. Yep, you guessed it, this one fastens with a buckle; a classic look that offers a fair amount of adjustability;

  • Closed Front. A favourite with owners of itchy horses, closed front rugs slip over the head, giving a smoother fit.

  • Disc Front Closure. A signature fastening of Horseware rugs, the disc front closure has four V-Front closure points ergonomically shaped to mirror the contours of a horse’s chest.

Naturally, there are more variations on the theme, just as there are rugs with different kinds of belly fastenings. Some fly rugs also come with flaps and straps, which offer much needed protection for horses with itchy centre lines on their bellies.

As horses aren’t static creatures, most rugs will come with back leg straps, or a fillet string that lies under the horse’s tail, to keep a rug in place. But it’s important to remember that if you choose a rug with back leg straps you shouldn’t have them hanging too loose. They should also be looped through each other to avoid chafing.

Another consideration will be, how much of your horse you want to cover. Many rugs simply cover the body, but others incorporate a full neck covering, or a half neck covering, or even detachable neck covering. These rugs tend to be popular with owners who have horses that are forever rubbing their manes.

After all that, choice is usually a matter of aesthetics and personal taste. Once you have found the type of rug you want, the material you like and the design you prefer, it’s not uncommon to stick to the brand that ticks those boxes for you as most rug companies will evolve and improve on existing models each year.

While most rug manufacturers offer a full range of rugs, all with excellent descriptions and explanations, the following list is offered as a basic guide to get you going.

Outdoor/Turnout Rugs

These rugs are designed for your horse to wear outside while in the paddock or field. They are waterproof and come in various weights of fill, from no fill to 550g of fill.

Turnout rugs may come with a neck cover included in the design, or with a removable neck piece or no neck piece. As mentioned before it's all down to personal preference and climate needs.

Stable Rugs

Thes rugs are designed for horses in stables as they are not usually waterproof.  Naturally, there’s a range of fills and designs for different needs and different climates.

Here at MumsHaynet, one of the team has a particularly dirty horse when stabled, so he wears his lightweight turnout when indoors as he needs the waterproof protection (for reasons that we will leave to your imagination).

Cooler Rugs

Cooler rugs are worn after exercise to aid the gradual cooling of your horse and prevent them from catching a chill. They can also be used after bathing, travelling or general periods of sweatiness if needed. These rugs are great for maintaining an ideal temperature while your horse is travelling or at a show. Cooler rugs come in many different styles, colours, designs and materials, so it's best to shop around to see what you prefer. A favourite of MumsHaynet is the Bucas Power Cooler as it's lightweight, has great fastenings and stays in place well.

Stable/Day Sheets

These rugs are usually used for travelling, for warmth in the stable, and for keeping horses clean while indoors. They look much like a cooler, but they can’t wick away moisture or sweat so they shouldn’t be used as a cooler. Usually made of cotton, stable sheets are lightweight and easily washable, but they have no waterproof qualities for your horse.

Fleece Rugs

A fleece is an extra layer of warmth when needed, but it’s also used as a warmer cooler rug, just to confuse things. A fleece acts like a cooler rug, wicking away any moisture or sweat as your horse cools down, which makes them a good choice for travelling etc on colder days. As they are usually quite luxurious, they also make the perfect show rug.

Fly Rugs

Fly rugs have grown in popularity over the years as owners look for ways to protect their horses from the scourge of flies and all the problems they bring. Made of a fine mesh, each season seems to herald a new innovation – such as zebra stripes because scientists found they confuse flies who then abort landing on them – but the common theme is preventing insects and flies from annoying, and biting, your horse. Many fly rugs come with a large belly flap for added anti-fly protection, and are usually cut longer than other rugs to cover as much of the horse as possible.

Waterproof Fly Rugs

This is the same as a normal fly rug, but with the added benefit of the top half being made of a waterproof material. A great idea for cooler days when flies are about, or for climates that are sunny one minute and rainy the next.

Sweet Itch/Eczema Rugs

These rugs are different to normal fly rugs as they have much more coverage. They also don’t usually have metal fastenings. Instead, they are fitted over the horse’s neck and a separate belly flap is attached. This leads to much better coverage over the belly. Made from breathable material that ensures a snug fit to stop any insects, including midges, from biting your horse, this style of rug tends to be a favourite of owners with horses suffering from sweet-itch.

Exercise Rugs

This is a rug designed to be worn by your horse during ridden exercise. An exercise rug can be made of fleece for added warmth, or a waterproof material for rainy days. There is some variation in style, with some cut to fit behind the saddle while others come around the front of the saddle. It is also possible to buy a full-size mesh fly rug which can be ridden in. This is great news for horses that really suffer from fly irritation.

Liners/Under Rugs

These add extra layers to horse rugs. Many manufacturers have now designed their own under rugs that can attach to existing stable or turnout rugs. Again, they can vary in material and thickness and range from thin as a day sheet to thick as a duvet. What you pick will largely boil down to the climate you live in.

A fairly new invention is a dry liner rug; a rug that can be placed under your normal stable or turnout rug that allows your horse to dry and cool quickly and efficiently after bathing or exercising – which sounds like a great time saver and worry-free idea!

Therapy Rugs

Basically, these are like a massage for your horse ... in rug form.

Whether you use them to help your horse rest, recover or even warm-up prior to exercise, therapy rugs tend to be used to promote relaxation and healing.

Magnetic rugs fall into the healing category. They are said to stimulate blood flow, which helps reduce pain and swelling.

Massage/therapy rugs tend to be used before or after exercise as they can help prevent stiffness and injury. They can even help desensitise a horse that is nervous about tacking up. As you might expect, there are many different therapy rugs out there, including:

  • Ceramic – said to aid faster recovery after exercise, increase circulation, and reduce tension and inflammation;

  • Infrared – said to improve circulation, bringing more oxygen and nutrients to injured tissues, which then promotes healing. Infrared helps ease pain, relieve inflammation, and protect against oxidative stress;

  • Massage pads – a rug designed to deliver massage vibrations to key parts of the horse's body to enhance health and performance;

  • Tourmaline – this is a naturally occurring crystal, ground down to powder form, that releases an electric charge that converts air molecules to negative ions, which are said to increase circulation and oxygen delivery to cells and tissue.

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