Types Of Horse Rugs Every Rider Should Know

10 Types Of Horse Rugs Every Rider Should Know

When it comes to caring for our beloved equine companions, ensuring their well-being in various climates is very important. Horse rugs, also known as blankets or sheets, are like jackets, blankets or coats for these fellas – much like when we put on our “winter woolies” when we’re cold.

With a variety of horse rugs on the market, it can be confusing to determine which rugs are needed for what or if you’re doing the right thing.

But don’t fret, in this article, we’ve got you (and your horse) covered!

In this guide, we look at 10 different types of horse rugs and learn more about the equine apparel that best suits your horse’s needs.

Types Of Horse Rugs

Every equestrian should have a few of these rugs in their tack room. Some rugs, such as cooler rugs, may only be needed for half an hour to dry off their horse, while others, like stable rugs, can be used overnight.

Let’s have a quick look at the 10 types of rugs we’ll cover in this article:

  1. Turnout rug
  2. Turnout sheet
  3. Stable rug
  4. Stable sheet
  5. Fly rug
  6. Sweet itch rug
  7. Cooler rug
  8. Exercise sheet
  9. Summer sheet
  10. Combo rug

1. Turnout rug

  • Use: Outdoors
  • Purpose: Weather protection
  • Fabric: Waterproof, breathable

Turnout rugs are used when horses are turned out in the fields, hence the name. These rugs are designed to protect horses against weather conditions, such as rain, snow, wind, sleet and cold temperatures. These are helpful to use if your horse has been clipped.

These rugs are typically waterproof or water-resistant and prevent any moisture from seeping in and reaching the horse’s coat. They focus on trapping body heat to ensure our four-legged friends are kept nice and dry.

Turnout rugs, sometimes referred to as canvas rugs, are a combination of waterproofing (synthetic) and breathable, moisture-wicking fabrics. They keep horses dry and sweat-free and allow air to circulate properly, preventing any overheating.

Turnout rugs are great “blankets” to use and have a variety of filler thicknesses (weights). The choice of turnout rug weight is very important as it determines the level of insulation. They can also be placed over fleece rugs for extra warmth.

Light-weight rugs usually have no filler (weight) at all, while winter rugs (referred to as heavyweight rugs) come in different of thicknesses. The strength and durability of turnout rugs’ outer materials are measured in “denier” – similar to ladies’ tights. The higher the denier, the thicker and more durable the rug!

Here are 3 examples of turnout rugs:

  • Lightweight: These typically range from 100 – 150 grams and are used as a protective layer against light rain and milder weather conditions.
  • Medium-weight: These are around 200 -250 grams and offer more warmth. They are used in moderate temperatures or in between seasons.
  • Heavyweight: These are about 300 grams or more and are designed for much colder climates.

Apart from turnout rug filler weights, they also provide different cover designs, such as:

  • Standard neck: These usually do not have any neck covering.
  • Combo/full neck: These types have a fixed neck covering for extra warmth and maximum protection.
  • Detachable neck: These are versatile rugs that can add/remove neck coverings.

Top tip: These rugs are an essential part of our four-legged pal’s outdoor wardrobe. Intended for outdoor use only and not for overnight usage in the stables.

2. Turnout sheet

  • Use: Outdoors
  • Purpose: Light weather protection
  • Fabric: Lightweight, waterproof, breathable

Think of turnout sheets as light “raincoats” for your horse. They’re perfect for those days when you want to keep your equine buddy dry but not too toasty. Just like turnout rugs, these lightweight sheets are designed for outdoor use when horses are turned out in the fields. They are made from breathable materials but are lighter in terms of waterproofing and insulation.

Turnout sheets are the go-to outdoor rug of choice during spring, summer, and milder weather conditions. They will keep your horse clean and dry, without overheating. Perfect for those in-between weather days!

3. Stable rugs (or stable blankets)

  • Use: Indoors, travel rugs
  • Purpose: Warmth
  • Fabric: Thick smooth material, breathable

As the name suggests, stable rugs are used when inside the stables or in transit. They’re like comfy blankets specifically designed for indoor use and their main purpose is to provide warmth to our equine pals. Unlike turnout rugs, these types of horse rugs are not waterproof. They focus mainly on thermal insulation – meaning, keeping your horse warm and at an optimal body temperature.

Stable rugs usually have a quilted or padded synthetic outer layer and come in different fill weights (thicknesses). This is to accommodate varying temperatures and/or for the individual needs of each horse. Stable rugs are great to use to keep your horse nice and cosy on colder evenings. The rug offers optimum breathability, preventing overheating or sweating during the night.

Top tip: Older horses may need thicker stable rugs (which you can layer up with fleece rugs) to help prevent muscle stiffness as opposed to lively younger horses.

4. Stable sheet

  • Use: Indoors, travel
  • Purpose: Warmth
  • Fabric: Smooth, lightweight, breathable.
Stable Sheet

These horse rugs are thinner than stable rugs and are for indoor use only. They have minimal fill and are best used in milder weather conditions. Similar to turnout sheets, they cover the horse’s body and neck area and are ideal for spring and summer time. They provide just the right amount of warmth whilst not being too thick and bulky.

5. Fly rugs (or fly sheets)

  • Use: Outdoors, summer
  • Purpose: Fly repellant
  • Fabric: Meshed, lightweight, breathable, UV protection
Horse Fly Sheet

Fly rugs, also known as fly sheets, are designed to keep pesky flies and other insects from biting and annoying your horse. They are made with a tightly woven mesh and breathable material that creates a barrier between the horse’s skin and the insects.

These lightweight rugs cover the entire neck and body area and will not restrict the horses’ movement or add any unnecessary weight whilst your fella is outdoors. Some fly rugs have “hood” or face covering features attached to the neck cover for extra pest protection.

Used mostly during the summer months, these rugs offer UV protection to protect the horse’s skin from harmful ultraviolet rays. (Much like when we wear hats in the summertime!)

Note: Some fly rugs offer protection in the form of built-in bug repellants, such as citronella or silver-based coatings to further ward off pesky critters from approaching your four-legged buddies.

6. Sweet itch rugs

  • Use: Outdoors
  • Purpose: If a horse suffers from sweet itch/skin sensitivity
  • Fabric: Lightweight, breathable, UV protection
Sweet itch rug

Similarly to a fly rug, sweet itch rugs also protect horses from flies and pesky bugs. However, these rugs are specifically designed to provide relief to horses suffering from sweet itch, a skin condition caused by an allergic reaction to the bites of insects, particularly Culicoides biting midges.

These rugs are made with tightly woven materials (to prevent the critters from creeping in) and cover the entire horse’s body – including the neck, belly, wither, and tail. The lightweight fabric is breathable, allowing air to circulate properly. Since they’re mainly used outdoors, they offer UV protection, protecting the horse’s coat from sunburn, which can aggravate the sweet itch condition.

Note: Some sweet itch rugs have further features for maximum protection. These can include belly flaps, tail flaps and detachable neck covers.

7. Cooler rug

  • Use: Exercise, training
  • Purpose: Removes excess moisture from the horse’s body
  • Fabric: Lightweight, breathable, moisture-wicking
Horse cooler rug

Cooler rugs, also known as wicking or sweat rugs, prevent chills by regulating the horse’s body temperature and helping in the cooling-down period after exercise.

They’re specialised lightweight rugs that have moisture-wicking properties. This means they’re designed to “wick away” (remove) excess water or sweat through the meshed fibres from the horse’s skin and can be used after bathing and washing.

Here are 3 types of cooler horse rugs:

  1. Lightweight summer coolers: As the name suggests, these are made from lightweight, breathable materials. They provide just the right amount of coverage on hot summer days. Their woven meshed fibres allow excess water to evaporate easily whilst keeping your trusted partner cool and comfortable.
  2. Waffles coolers: These rugs are slightly thicker when compared to standard cooler sheets. They are ideal to use during spring and autumn as they offer more warmth while not being too bulky. These horse rugs can also be used as a base rug, underneath layering to provide extra cosiness.
  3. Fleece coolers: Fleece cooler rugs (or fleece rugs) are the thicker of the three, providing the most insulation and warmth. These are usually used in winter to keep your horse warm when temperatures are very low.

8. Exercise rugs

  • Use: Exercise, training
  • Purpose: Keeps the horse warm during exercise
  • Fabric: Waterproof, breathable, moisture-wicking
Horse exercise sheet

Exercise rugs, sometimes known as quarter sheets, are used during exercise and training in cold, wet weather. This type of horse rug keeps the horses’ hind legs (hindquarters) warm with its light fleece lining and moisture-wicking materials. Not only do they wick away excess moisture, but they’re particularly helpful to warm up your horse’s muscles and prevent any sprains in chilly weather.

Top tip: Exercise sheets typically feature reflective strips, ensuring our four-legged friends are visible in bad weather conditions.

9. Summer sheet

  • Use: Outdoors, summer
  • Purpose: UV protection, keeps horses clean
  • Fabric: Lightweight, breathable,
Summer Sheet

In the same way that winter sheets keep horses warm, summer sheets (or summer rugs) also serve as a protective barrier against the elements. They offer minimal protection in terms of warmth and insulation but instead are a protecting layer against dust, dirt, light rain and sun during the summer months.

These horse rugs are great for keeping your horse clean and dry without making them too hot. Their UV protection properties protect darker horses’ coats from sun bleaching and lighter horses from sunburn.

Summer sheets can also double up as lightweight stable rugs. They can keep your horse cool while in transit or at shows.

10. Combo rug

  • Use: Versatile
  • Purpose: Coverage, protection, warmth
  • Fabric: Waterproof, breathable, moisture-wicking

Now these rugs are favoured by most horse owners nowadays due to their all-in-one features. Combo rugs are a combination of both a turnout rug and neck covering in a single garment. They offer protection for the horse’s body, neck, and head and can be used indoors or outside. While they can be heavier when compared to other rug types, you can’t beat their versatility!

The nice thing about this horse rug is the ability to “layer up” your horse by adding or removing the inner fleece rugs to keep your horse warm or fold back the neckpiece if your horse is too hot. Its waterproof, breathable materials ensure your equine pal remains dry and comfortable; allowing moisture to escape and preventing any sweat buildup.

This horse rug may include additional features such as:

  • Leg straps,
  • Tail flaps,
  • Shoulder gussets, or
  • Reflective strips

For added protection, freedom of movement, and visibility. Essentially, horse owners use combo rugs to ‘build their own’ rug for whatever weather. Quite nifty rugs if I do say so myself!

Temperature Guide To Rugging

We’ve put together a quick reference guide to which type of stable rug is used in different climates and temperatures: Note, this is for a horse with a close full body clip.

  • 15 degrees and warmer: Stable sheet
  • 10 to 15 degrees: Stable sheet or lightweight rug
  • 5 to 10 degrees: Medium-weight rug
  • 0 to 4 degrees: Heavyweight rug
  • -10 to 0 degrees: Heavyweight stable rug with a neck collar
  • Below -10 degrees: Heavyweight rug, neck collar and liner underneath

Note: Do ensure your horse is measured to ensure rugs are fitted properly and comfortably.

Note: The breed of horse and the type of clip has a huge influence on the rugging requirements. Our big hairy Clydesdales don’t use rugs even in winter, but our older, fully clipped lighweight ponies have them on in anything below 10 degrees celcius


What is the difference between cooler rugs and exercise sheets?

While these two types of horse rugs are quite similar in their appearance, they do vary in terms of functionality.

An easy way to remember is: Cooler rugs are used when horses “cool down” after exercise. Wicking fibres effectively allow sweat to evaporate through the rug which prevents the horse from getting the “chills.”

Exercise sheets (or quarter sheets), on the other hand, are used to “warm up” the horse before exercise or training. They’re used in colder, wet conditions and offer wind protection and warmth whilst outside.

What does ripstop mean on horse rugs?

Ripstop is a specific type of fabric used for horse rugs. It is durable and lightweight that is designed to resist tearing or ripping. Think of it as “stopping any rips”, as the fibres prevent small tears from spreading.

Most modern horse rugs use a woven “grid pattern” of reinforced threads (nylon or polyester) that create a stronger rug. Ripstop fabrics are typically used for turnout rugs and sheets, as horses are more prone to rough surfaces and snags from the outdoor elements.

Horse in a rug

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