While the decision to use surcingles or not is often hotly debated if your horse rug has them it is important to fit them correctly to reduce the chance of the horse getting caught up and potentially injuring himself.
What do surcingles do on a horse rug?
As more horses are rugged almost full time it has become necessary to minimise excessive movement of a rug on a horse. Ideally, a well-fitted rug should move with a horse, allowing them comfort and freedom to move without restriction. When fitted properly, belly surcingles help prevent the rug from twisting to one side or the other. They also serve to prevent the sides of a rug billowing in the wind. Conversely, on cooler lightweight rugs such as our Flag Horse Rugs, we do not use surcingles as the fluttering skirt of the rug allows the extra breeze to get to the underside of the horse.
Fitting Belly Surcingles Correctly:
Straps should be crossed from the front of the off-side to the rear of the near-side and from the rear of the off-side to the front of the near-side.
Use the sliding adjustment bars to make the straps longer or shorter as needed. The straps should be even and of a length that will create an even cross or 'x' in the centre of the horse's belly.
The cross over should hang no more than a hands width from the horse.
Belly Surcingles - Just Right:
Surcingles that have been done up.
There should be about 1 hands width between the surcingles and horses belly.
Belly Surcingles Incorrect:
If the straps are not crossed to the opposing position as described they will be of little benefit at all.
Surcingles - how not to do them up - they must be crossed!
This won't help to keep the rug in place.
Belly Surcingles - Too Tight:
Belly surcingles should be loose enough to allow the belly to move and expand comfortably with movement. Imagine how uncomfortable you would be laying down with a tight belt around your belly!
Surcingles down up correctly - but too tight.
Surcingles that are too tight will restrict movement and cause rub.
Belly Surcingles - Too Loose:
If the straps hang lower than a hands width there is an increased risk of getting a hoof caught when laying down or rolling. The rug is also more likely to move.
Surcingles crossed correctly - but left too loose
Size does matter:
If a rug is too big on a horse the rug will slip back placing the surcingles too close to the hind legs. This increases the chance of accidents and injury.
If you are fitting a turnout rug over an under rug with belly surcingles take the time to check that the outer rug surcingles are fitted properly. Then if necessary adjust the straps of the under rug to ensure the straps do not hang lower than the outer rug straps.
By taking a few extra minutes when you first use a rug with belly surcingles to get the fit right you can alleviate a lot of problems, repairs and heartache. It also pays to check the surcingles from time to time ensuring they have not slipped or sustained any damage through use. Ultimately, a well-fitted rug with properly adjusted belly surcingles will help your horse wear their rug comfortably for a long time to come.
Guide to correct horse rug fit
We have devoted an entire page to common fitting mistakes we see with horse rugs/sizing - see our detailed article here.