how to measure a horse for a rug

How To Measure A Horse For A Rug: A Step-By-Step Guide

Every equestrian knows that finding the right rug size is crucial to ensure your horse’s comfort, freedom of movement, and, of course, protection from the elements. But how do you know if your horse’s rug is well-fitted? And more importantly, how do you find the correct size if it doesn’t? Knowing how to measure a horse for a rug is an essential skill for any equestrian.

In this handy guide, I’ll walk you through how to measure a horse for a rug so that you can make sure your horse is looking – and feeling – fabulous. So, grab your tape measure and saddle up as we walk you through the process for a quick and easy solution.

Horse in a blue blanket in winter

Why Knowing How To Measure a Horse for a Rug is Important:

Knowing how to measure a horse for a rug is essential for ensuring that the horse rug you buy is the correct fit. It’s especially important for you to be aware of the sizing your preferred brand uses, since different brands may use different measuring systems.

For example, they may use centimetres, inches and feet, or hands. So, if you want to be on the safe side, you may want to consult the horse rug size chart listed on the brand’s website or on the product itself.

An ill-fitting rug can compromise its effectiveness and leave your horse exposed and vulnerable to the elements. By correctly measuring your horse, you can ensure you’re selecting the right rug size. This will also help to provide optimal comfort and protection to keep your horse warm all season long.

But that’s not all it will do.

A well-fitting rug will allow your horse to move freely without restrictions or discomfort. A rug that is too small can restrict movement and cause rubbing or chafing, leading to skin irritations and sores. On the other hand, a rug that is too big can shift or slide and get your horse’s legs caught which can cause it injuries. Once you know how to measure your horse for a rug, you can choose from any one of the many types available out there

Horse in a green blanket in winter

Factors to Consider to Ensure the Perfect Fit

The Type of Horse Rug

  • Turnout Rugs: Turnout rugs are typically waterproof or water-resistant and have insulation to keep your horse warm in cold weather. A turnout rug is available in various weights and often has additional features like leg straps, a tail strap, and shoulder gussets for a secure fit and maximum coverage.

  • Stable Rugs: Stable rugs are generally for indoor use, such as in the stables or during transportation. A stable rug is not waterproof because it is not designed for outdoor conditions. This horse rug can be used on its own or layered with other rugs and has leg straps and chest closures to keep it in place.

  • Summer Sheets and Fly Rugs: Summer sheets and fly rugs are lightweight horse rugs that are designed for warmer weather. They offer protection from the sun, insects, and dust and are made from breathable material to keep your horse cool. Fly rugs sometimes have belly and neck covers and built-in fly repellants to keep flies away.

  • Fleece Rugs and Coolers: Fleece rugs and coolers are used to help regulate your horse’s body temperature after exercise or during cool-down periods. Fleece rugs are made from a soft, insulating material that wicks away moisture while providing warmth. On the other hand, coolers work much the same and absorb moisture while cooling the horse down.

  • Show Sheets: Show sheets, also known as show rugs, are used for aesthetic purposes. They are typically used to enhance your horse’s appearance during competitions or events. However, they are not designed to be used for insulation or protection.

  • Liners and Underblankets: Liners and underblankets are additional layers that can be used under turnout or stable rugs to provide more warmth and insulation in chilly weather. These horse rugs add versatility to your existing rug and allow them to be adjusted based on temperature changes without needing to get a new rug.

The Front Fastenings of a horse rug

The front fastenings of a horse rug are important for a secure and comfortable fit. As such, most rugs either have a chest buckle or strap that fastens at the front of the horse’s chest.

When fitting a rug, make sure that the front fastenings are adjustable and allow for enough room to prevent rubbing or constriction around the horse’s chest and shoulders. It’s important that the fastenings should be snug but not too tight.

Horse in a purple blanket in winter

Front fastenings should be snug but not too tight


The withers, which are the highest points on a horse’s shoulder blades, must be considered when choosing the right size rug.

A properly fitting rug should provide enough clearance at the withers to not rub on pressure points. Too much pressure can cause pain and discomfort, leading to a very unhappy horse. Ideally, the rug should sit smoothly over the withers without causing friction.

Have a look at our video to see how to find your horses withers below

The Length

To fit a horse rug correctly, you’ll need to be sure that your horse is properly covered and protected. The horse rug should extend from the base of the horse’s neck to the tail, providing adequate coverage for its body. Still, you should be careful not to have a rug that is too long or too short.

If the rug is too short, it can leave your horse’s flanks and hindquarters exposed. On the other hand, a rug that is too long can get in the way of the horse’s leg, causing tangling and a possible tripping hazard.

Pebbles the cob looking out over a frosty evening at Strathorn. Bennachie in the background

Choose a rug of the right length to avoid tangles

The Surcingles

Surcingles are the straps that secure the rug under the horse’s belly. They play an important role in keeping the rug in place and stopping it from shifting or slipping when the horse moves.

Tight surcingles can make it difficult for your horse to move and breathe, so be sure to leave enough room for them to move naturally. Still, you’ll want to be careful of loosening them too much, as they can slip and get caught or trip your horse up.

Surcingles on the side of a rug

Make sure the surcingles are done up tight to avoid tripping, but not so tight so your horse can’t breathe.

The Neck Cover

If you’re buying a horse rug with a neck cover, you’ll need to check that it fits correctly. The neck cover should allow your horse to move its head easily without being too stiff. When you’re measuring your horse, you should be sure to measure around its neck as well. You may also want to ensure that it has additional fastenings to keep it fitting perfectly.

Horse with it's neck up on a blue rug

A rug with a neck will keep your horse cosy in winter

How to Measure Your Horse for a rug

What You Need:

  • A piece of string or a soft tape measure

  • A notepad and pen to write down the measurements

Measuring tape pad and pen

Measuring Your Horse

Now that you’re more familiar with the ins and outs of the ideal fit for your horse’s new rug, it’s time to measure your horse.

You can do this by following these easy steps:

How to measure a horse for a rug

  1. For a UK rug size, start from the centre of your horse’s chest. Use a long string or tape and measure horizontally along the side of its body up to the point just before the horse’s tail. This will tell you the length of the horse rug you need. Don’t measure all the way round the back of the tail, as this will add a few inches. The measurement is to the side of the tail.

  2. Mark the end of the string or tie a knot at the end and measure the string to get your measurement.

  3. Note down your measurements and compare them to the sizing guide on the product or the manufacturer’s website.

  4. You can also use this technique to measure around the thickest part of your horse’s neck and the height of its withers (from the withers to the ground) to make sure that the new rug is the right size.

  5. Note: Euro rugs are measured differently. They are in centimeters and are measured from the withers to the tail (red line below)

How to measure a horse for a rug or blanket

Choosing the Right Rug Size

Horses come in various shapes and sizes, so you’ll need to factor this in when you buy a new rug. Some rugs are designed with a more contoured shape to follow the flow of your horse’s body and create a better fit. So, be sure that your new rug follows the contours of your horse’s body if you want it to fit perfectly.

You’ll also want to check the width of the rug, too. If the rug is too narrow, it won’t fit the width of your horse’s back and can cause discomfort by creating pressure points. Conversely, if the rug is too wide, it can cause uncomfortable rubbing or slip out of place.


How often should you wash horse rugs?

Generally, it’s recommended to wash horse rugs once or twice per season. However, if the rugs are heavily soiled or if the horse has a skin condition, it may be necessary to wash them more frequently.

Is it better to over- or under-rug a horse?

Although under-rugging can leave a horse vulnerable to colder temperatures, horses can naturally regulate their body temperatures through thermoregulation. This means that they can warm themselves even in colder conditions. On the other hand, over rugging can lead to heat stress and health problems. So it may be better to under than over-rug your horse.

Can horses overheat in rugs?

Yes, horses can overheat if the rugs are too heavy or the weather is warm. Because horses can naturally regulate their temperature, adding heavy rugs can cause moisture and heat to get trapped. In turn, this can lead to excessive sweating and discomfort. Follow our guide for knowing when to rug your horse

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