This is a guide to choosing & maintaining a horse rug to get the longest life from it. I am often asked by customers about what they can do to get the longest life from a horse rug. At face value it seems an easy question to ask – but much harder to answer. It’s more about a process – than one single event.
One thing is certain – at some stage your horse will tear or destroy his horse rug. Either from abuse or just from the rug coming to the end of its usable life.
Horse rugs don’t have timers – a horse will just as easily destroy a horse rug on day one as he can after 12 months of use. In fact most horse rug accidents happen in the first days of use - from incorrect fit or from not using leg straps of surcingles correctly.
Horse Rugs - you get what you pay for – almost!
Unfortunately at the bottom end of the market you do get what you pay for. There is not a lot of mark-up in horse rugs and if you see a ripstop paddock neck combos selling for under $65, they simply can’t be produced without sacrificing something, usually the fabric, followed by cheap fittings, polyester bindings, thin strapping etc.
Once you move away from bargain basement priced rugs, price is not always a good indication of quality. There may not be a great deal of difference in quality between a well-priced horse rug and another retailing at twice the price under a major brand name.
A good analogy I often explain to my customers is that they won’t think twice about paying $60-$80 for a shirt or top, but expect they can find a good horse rug for half that. A horse rug has 15 times more fabric, and significantly more hardware and fittings – not to mention the labour involved to produce, transport etc. Its simple maths.
Good quality means a combination of the following factors:
Start off by ensuring you have a good quality rug to begin with. No amount of care will keep a horse in a flimsy rug.
- Ensure the rug or brand uses full weight fabrics, fabrics produced with high quality darn and weaved and tensioned on modern looms. (General paddock Ripstop fabrics can vary in weight from 200gsm to 330gsm (gsm = grams per square metre)) They will look very similar – but will be miles apart in its strength and performance. Likewise Mesh fabrics can vary from 150gsm to 500gsm. There are lots of cheap and nasty fabric used in horse rugs. Unfortunately most buyers can’t easily tell the difference, until your horse has worn it and it’s around his ankles!
- Look at the weave used in the fabric, a diamond weave fabric will perform better than a square weave fabric. Look at how many Ripstop threads are used. For mesh fabrics look at the grain and height of the weave.
- Ensure good quality buckles & fittings are used. With buckles and leg strap snap hooks etc- there are two varieties – those made in Taiwan and those made in India. Taiwanese fittings will last for ever. Most Indian made, cast fittings will have a short life, yet look identical. Stamp sheet buckles are the best – they are stamped in a single piece from a sheet of steel – not cast.
- Ensure fittings like chest straps and leg straps are not sewn to directly onto the rug, but sewn onto a larger reinforced area (usually a strip of 50mm polypropylene webbing, that sits between the fittings and horse rug) This ensures that the forces at play are spread over a larger surface area. Also ensure that chest straps are dual layered (i.e.: two layers of polypropylene binding sewn together). Many manufacturers use one layered chest straps – easily torn.
- Check to ensure that a “Bar Tack” stitch is used to reinforce all fittings. A Bar Tack is a special machine that applies a very concentrated stitch and can look like the fabric has been stapled, hence the name. Bar Tack should be used on all fittings like chest straps, leg strap mounts, as well as on areas of the rug that can come under stress – like bottoms of gussets, tail flap attachments, neck and hood attachments etc.
- Ensuring all that all rug edges are bound with a good quality Polypropylene binding and double stitched.
- Also ensure that the rug hasn't been compromised by using short drops or tiny tail flaps which means less of your horse is covered and ultimately offers your horse less protection and increase the likelihood they will bitten itchy etc.
- Look at the style of seam used along the back line, is it a strong rolled seam which provides good strength - or has it just been sewn with a traditional overlocker style machine?
- Finally look for things like shoulder gussets, belly surcingles and contoured backlines – all things that make the rug fit and ensures they stay in place.
Buy the correct size horse rug
Ensure you buy the corrects size horse rug for your horse. (90% of problems with damaged rugs are because the horse is in a rug that is in the incorrect size – usually a rug that is too big.) Big rugs tend to pull back and rub shoulders and chests and also move about a lot more. I would go as far to say that as many as half of horses we see in rugs are in a rug that is a size to big. Horses also come in different shapes. Some brands fit certain builds of horses better than others. A good fitting rug will ensure a much longer life.
Belly surcingles make a huge difference to keep a horse rug in place. We no longer make any rugs without belly surcingles for this reason. They add cost – but is money well spent. (See our rug size guide here)
We have all been here!
How can I ensure my horse rugs will last?
- Wash the rugs often – but avoid hot water that will heat damage bindings and straps which are polypropylene. (see our horse rug care article) Never wash waterproof turnout rugs or Canvas, there are other methods to look after these rugs, otherwise you will damage the waterproofing.
- Repair rugs when you notice they are torn. Repair lose stitching on fittings – as soon as you notice any damage – don’t wait for them to tear off!
- Use electric tape on fences where possible and separate horses that like to bite each other (and bite rugs)
- If you horse has an itch problem – treat the itch before it escalates.
My horse destroys all his rugs? How can I stop this?
You need to work out why he is a rug destroyer? That will often dictate how to address the issue
- If he is itchy, is it from insect bites – in which case using a suitable rug to stop insects biting will help.
- Is it from being too hot? If he is hot and sweaty he will scratch and carry on – you may need a cooler rug.
- Is his rug too big and he is getting caught up in his belly surcingles or chest straps when rolling?
- Is he snagging his rugs on a fence post or gate latch?
Sometimes a little observation goes a long way - however sometimes you will be none the wiser. One minute his rug is fitting perfectly - the next its in different corners of the paddock and the horse looking none the wiser!
If you would like any more info - please don't feel to contact us directly and one of our friendly staff will be only to keen to assist you.