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Avoiding Horse Rug Rub Marks

Posted by Caribu Team on July 9, 2019

Avoiding Horse Rug Rub Marks:

It is very common to see rub marks on horses who otherwise would never get them, from late January to early March, this is when horses grow out their summer coat (which is very thin) with a thicker winter coat, during this time a horse coat is more susceptible to rub. Especially when combined with humid/wet weather that increases friction from rugs.

A good fit will reduce the likely hood of your horse developing rub marks from pressure points from a rug. We design our horse rugs, blankets and sheets in such a way to ensure that pressure on the chest and shoulders is kept to a minimum. We also incorporate anti-rub linings in all our horse rugs. Keep in mind that some rugs are heavier than others (like Fly mesh, Canvas or Turnout Rugs) and these will apply more weight to pressure points. Rub Marks are caused by a combination of :

  • Incorrect horse rugs sizing, or the individual horse having an abnormal feature which makes them more susceptible to pressure point marks (i.e. high wither, very lean build etc). If a rug is to small you generally see rub marks on the shoulders. If its too big you tend to get rubbing more on the front chest area as the rug slides back over the withers.
  • Late January to early March - horses grow out their summer coat with a thicker winter coat, during this time a horse coat is more susceptible to rub.
  • Wearing rugs for extended periods (i.e. throughout winter) will eventually have an impact on pressure points and horse chest bibs are always advisable
  • Some horses have more sensitive coats and will be fine in lighter rugs (like a cotton ripstop horse rug) but may have issues in fly mesh or turnout combos which are heavier. Fine coats and are more susceptible to rubbing and may need a bib under heavier rugs to provide an extra layer of padding.

With some horse's you may not be able to identify why a particular rug causes an issue. Just like people, the same size shirt will fit 10 of the same size people differently. Horses are no different and have their own different shapes, features and postures and movements. Getting a good match between horse and rug size will ensure that you won't have any problems. If your horse has rub marks - something is usually wrong with the rug sizing you have chosen or your horse has features outside the 'norm'. Rub marks can be caused by a wide variety of issues out of our control. Some horses may need a bib to help alleviate. 

Common Fit & Rub Issues.

Avoiding Horse Rug Rub Marks - The above example shows the start of a rub mark on the shoulder from a rug that has been too big and slipping behind the wither.

The above example shows the start of a rub mark on the shoulder from a rug that has been too big and slipping behind the wither. The image below shows what can happen in just a few days if the rug is too large and slipping over the whither which causes the rug to pull up in the chest area.

Avoiding Horse Rug Rub Marks - he image below shows what can happen in just a few days if the rug is too large and slipping over the whither which causes the rug to pull up in the chest area.

The most common fitting problem we see is horse rugs that are too big for the horse. (or rugs that have a very deep cut neckline). The rug should sit nice and high on the neckline, up past the wither at the base of the neck. This will ensure that the rug doesn't slip back behind the withers. Some rug brands may have a very deep cut neckline (i.e. large deep neck curve). These can be very good on stocky horses (i.e.: Quarter Horses etc) but will create all sorts of issues on horses that aren't extremely broad in the shoulders.

Avoiding Horse Rug Rub Marks - The rug above is sitting too far back behind the withers.

^ The rug above is sitting too far back behind the withers.

Avoiding Horse Rug Rub Marks - The rug above will slip back behind the wither and pull up higher on the chest under the neck.

^ The rug above will slip back behind the wither and pull up higher on the chest under the neck. This will create rub marks on the chest and shoulders.

Avoiding Horse Rug Rub Marks - The Rug above shows the correct fit, nice and high up the neckline and over the wither.

^ The Rug above shows the correct fit, nice and high up the neckline and over the wither.

Horse Rug Chest Straps.

Both the upper and lower chest straps should be on the same buckle hole, ideally the first (tightest) or second buckle hole.

Avoiding Horse Rug Rub Marks - The rug above is either too small, or hasn't been pulled far enough forward up the neckline and over the horses wither.

^ The rug above is either too small or hasn't been pulled far enough forward up the neckline and over the horses wither.

Avoiding Horse Rug Rub Marks - The rug above is either too small, or hasn't been pulled far enough forward up the neckline and over the horses wither.

^ The rug above is either too small or hasn't been pulled far enough forward up the neckline and over the horses wither.

Avoiding Horse Rug Rub Marks - he rug above is a turnout waterproof combo. In this case the rug is the correct fit - but is sitting way too far to the rear - it needs to be pulled well forward and done up so that there is ample over lap of the front edges of the horse rug.

^ The rug above is a turnout waterproof combo. In this case, the rug is the correct fit - but is sitting way too far to the rear - it needs to be pulled well forward and done up so that it is ample overlap of the front edges of the horse rug. (1st or 2nd buckle hole).

Avoiding Horse Rug Rub Marks - The rug above shows an ideal fit. Both Chest straps done up evenly.

^ The rug above shows an ideal fit. Both Chest straps are done up evenly.

Tail End - getting the correct fit.

We often see rugs that hang way too far over the rear end of the horse. The argument is that people want to make sure the horse isn't bothered with flies. Unfortunately going for a rug one size bigger to get extra length will give you a longer rug, but keep in mind that all the other dimensions on the rug increase as well. All Caribu Horse Rugs come standard with Tent Tail flaps, there is no need to have an oversize rug.

Avoiding Horse Rug Rub Marks

Avoiding Horse Rug Rub Marks

Avoiding Horse Rug Rub Marks

Gussets

There are lots of arguments for and against gussets. A rug with a well-positioned gusset will help prevent shoulder rub issues, ensure a better fit and increased comfort for your horse. (especially when rugs have belly surcingles). However, we see far too many rugs with gussets poorly positioned, generally too far forward, or with insufficient depth. These will create a whole new array of fitting issues.

Avoiding Horse Rug Rub Marks - If your rug has belly surcingles, gussets play a very important role in allowing the fabric to mould around the shoulder and allow the rug to tuck up under the belly behind the surcingle straps.

^ If your rug has belly surcingles, gussets play a very important role in allowing the fabric to mould around the shoulder and allow the rug to tuck up under the belly behind the surcingle straps. Without gussets, you are placing a lot more pressure on the chest and shoulders.

Adjusting Belly Surcingles

We have devoted an entire page to Belly surcingle adjustment - see our article here

How should my Horse Rug fit?

Getting a good match between your horse and a suitable horse rug size, will go along way to extending the life and comfort of your rugs? Hopefully, this page will give you a few pointers on how a rug should fit when used on your horse.

Be sure to also read our detailed Horse Rug Size Guide, to learn how to measure your horse for our rugs and more detailed information on Caribu Rug sizing.

Fitting a Horse Rug - the basics:

There are a few common rules to follow to check the fit:

  • Put the rug on the horse, the rug should sit forward and in front of the wither. The top chest buckle should be fastened to the 1st (tightest) or 2nd hole.  If you are using the third hole or more, it may suggest the horse may need a larger rug size.
  • The rug should sit firmly around the neckline and chest. 
  • Leg straps should be loose enough to prevent chafing - but not hanging down low.
  • Surcingles should be adjusted so that cross in the centre of the belly and allow a hand's width between straps and belly.
  • Rugs that are too big for a horse tend to create more problems from rubbing etc than rugs that are too small. If a rug is too big in the neck area, the rugs slip back over the wither and put pressure on the chest. This will cause more fabric to hang over the rear end of the horse and you will have issues with slippage and horses getting caught in surcingles and stepping on their rugs when getting up or rolling.
  • The seam where the tail flap attaches to the rug should sit on top of the tail. If it sits beyond the tail, the rug is too big, if it sits up in front of the tail, the rug is too small.

Adjusting Hoods

We have a detailed guide devoted to the use and adjustment of hoods and masks. Please read our Horse Hood & Mask Fitting Guide here.

Sizing Issues

Because we use standard Australian sizing for our rugs, it makes it much easier for sizing and comparison. We also understand that while horse rug sizes are standard - horses aren't! They come in all shapes and sizes. Our rugs are designed to fit the majority of horses, the majority of the time. Like people, there will always be horses that have shapes that don't conform to the norm, and sometimes a custom made rug is the best option. If you do have a fitting issue its usually due to having the wrong size rug for your horse rather than an issue with the rug itself.

Some issues that affect sizing decisions:

  • Many imported rugs (including some big name brands) used to make rugs, especially for the Australian market and sizing. However, in recent years they now manufacture one rug for distribution in all markets - Europe, UK, US and Australia. (Often based on European designs) Each region measures their rugs differently (i.e.: Europe measure from wither to tail along the top edge of the rug). Unfortunately, international sizing varies when directly compare with Australian sizing - so it's not unusual to have a discrepancy in sizing - i.e.: a rug labelled as a 6'0, but when you measure them they can be closer to 6'3 or even 5'9.
  • Necklines are often very deep cut (or poorly designed!) on the cheaper imported rugs and this has the effect of making the rug a much bigger fit compared to better fitting brands of the same size.
  • Winter turnout rugs which are usually lined, filled or padded are often a tighter fit when compared to normal summer ripstop rugs or sheets. This is due to the fact that the padding takes up additional space. Also keep in mind, that if you use a summer sheet, wool, polar fleece or similar rug under your winter rug to create layers - this adds more padding again and has the potential to create a tighter fit again. If your horse is normally borderline between sizes in a normal summer rug, this may mean the difference between going up or down a size.
  • Young horses often have underdeveloped chests, which can make them a challenge to the rug. Often a dart in the shoulder line can take up the slack and be taken out when the horse fills out.

We suggest if you are not confident with sizing, to put a sheet over your horse when trying your new rug on for the first time, to keep hair and dirt off the rug.

Read our detailed size guide here.

Avoid damage to your rug or horse:

A good match between your horse and your new rug will ensure you have no problems. A poor fitting rug, due to incorrect sizing for your horse, will accelerate the likely damage to a horse rug, or more importantly your horse. Horse rugs are usually damaged by:

  • Having your horse in a rug a size too small will result in excessive pressure on chest buckles and the wither area. 
  • Having your horse in a rug that is too large will result in a rug that slips easily on your horse.
  • Having Leg straps fitted too loosely, and the horses rug slips, allowing the horse to either step through the leg strap or catch a hoof on the strap - which results in the strap being pulled off.
  • Loose Belly Surcingles, which allows the horse to get his legs caught in a strap when running or rolling.
  • Any of the above issues are exaggerated when your horse rolls or canter

We have a detailed guide on using and adjusting hoods and masks here.