Horse Blanket Basics: When And How To Rug Your Horse

Keeping your horse comfortable and protected in different weather conditions is an important part of responsible horse ownership. And horse rugs can help you to do just that!

But understanding the different types of horse rugs, knowing when to rug your horse, and how to fit them correctly can be overwhelming, to say the least.

Luckily, that’s why I’ve created this handy horse rugging guide which will take you through the basics of horse rugging and give you all the information you need to provide your horse with top-notch care.

Horse in a rug at sunset in winter in front of bennachie

Horse Rugging 101

Picture this: horses donning stylish coverings that not only make them look fabulous, but that serve a practical purpose as well. That’s what rugging is all about. Rugging horses is a term used for outfitting them with specialized rugs or blankets.

But why do we rug our horses, and when should we rug a horse? Well, the purpose is pretty straightforward. Rugging is all about keeping your horse warm, protected, and comfortable in almost any weather. These blankets, made from a range of materials like polyester, wool, or nylon are designed to shield horses from winter chills.

Rugging can help horses combat cold weather and act as raincoats in wet and windy weather. However, it can also help them to cool down and prevent overheating during training in the winter months.

And let’s not forget about those pesky insects. Horse rugs serve as an extra layer of protection against incessant buzzing and biting, ensuring that your horse is comfortable at all times.

When Should You Rug A Horse?

When it comes to rugging horses, there are several important factors to consider to make sure that your horse is happy and comfortable.

One of the main reasons horse owners choose to rug their horses is to help them regulate their body temperature. When the temperatures drop, most horses can naturally regulate their core body temperature through a process known as thermoregulation. However, horse rugs can help to manage their body heat more effectively.

Although every horse is unique, many horse owners base their decision to rug their horses on their horses’ coats. If your horse’s coat is particularly thin, a nice, thick rug can help add some extra insulation. But, if it has a thicker coat, you may only need a lightweight rug (or leave it off altogether).

Additionally, you should always consider your horse’s activity level. If your horse is regularly training or working, it’s likely that it is generating more heat. Therefore, it may not need a rug or only require a lighter one. On the other hand, sedentary or older horses may need extra warmth to compensate for their lack of physical activity.

Horse in a blanket in winter

Types of Horse Rugs

You might be asking yourself: “What rug should I put on my horse if there are so many different kinds?”

Choosing a horse rug for your equine companion can be tough. After all, there are several different types to choose from! Different types of horse rugs all have unique properties and features, so it’s best to understand the differences between them before you go out rug shopping!

Some of the most common types of rugs include:

  • Turnout rugs: Turnout rugs are designed to be worn by horses when they are turned out in the pasture or paddock. They provide protection from the elements and are typically made from durable and waterproof materials to keep your horse dry and comfortable when it’s outdoors. A turnout rug can also be used with a detachable neck cover or hood.

  • Stable rugs: Stable rugs are intended for indoor use when your horse is stabled. These rugs can help to provide warmth and comfort while your horse is in the stable and are made from thicker, more insulated materials. A stable horse rug may also come with a breathable lining to prevent your horse’s body from overheating.

  • Under rugs: Under rugs or stable liners are used as additional layers of insulation beneath stable or turnout rugs. Because they are meant to be used together with other rugs, they are lightweight while also allowing for your horse’s natural ability to regulate its temperature.

  • Cooler rugs: Cooler rugs, also known as wicking rugs, are used to help horses cool down after exercise or training. These rugs are particularly helpful for sport horses and are made from moisture-wicking materials that quickly absorb moisture from their skin. They are also lightweight and breathable to prevent the horse from overheating.

  • Rain rugs: Rain rugs are quite literally designed for rain! A rain rug or rain sheet helps to protect horses from the cold and dampness and keep them dry during rainy weather. These rugs are usually made from waterproof material and may have neck covers and tail flaps for added protection.

Horse in a turnout rug

Horse Rug Fitting And Sizing

Ensuring a proper fit when rugging horses is essential for the comfort and safety of your horses – and the effectiveness of the rugs. But what makes the right fit so important?

Firstly, a well-fitted rug allows your horse to move around freely and ensures that it’s happy and comfortable. It should never be too tight or too loose, as this can cause chafing and discomfort.

Rugs that are too big or too small can also be hazardous to your horse’s health.

When a rug is too big, it can slip and become caught or snagged on various surfaces. This can lead to some nasty injuries if your horse starts to panic! Similarly, a rug that is too tight can make it hard for your horse to move or even breathe, which can also lead to unnecessary health complications.

Lastly, ill-fitting rugs can prevent proper airflow and thermoregulation, which means your horse may be more susceptible to overheating or chilling.

Read our guide on measuring your horse for a rug to make sure you pick the right size

An Easy Guide To Rugging Horses

Along with the horse rug weight guide that is usually included on the rug manufacturer’s website, it’s important to remember to use a rug that works for your horse’s size, as well as its living conditions and the weather.

Of course, factors like whether your horse is clipped or not will also come into play when you’re searching for the right rug. Clipped horses are usually shaved in strategic places where they’re more likely to sweat, which can have an effect on which rug you’ll need.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with rug size, type, and when exactly to rug your horse, don’t worry! This comprehensive chart should help you to find the best rug for your horse quickly and easily, meaning your horse will be snug as a bug in no time.

A guide to rugging horses


How often should I clean my horse’s rug?

The frequency of cleaning your horse’s rug depends on several factors like your horse’s activity level and how soiled the rug is. As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to clean the rug at least once or twice per season or whenever it is visibly dirty.

Can rugging a horse cause coat damage?

Rugging won’t do any damage to your horse’s coat – as long as it’s fitted correctly. An ill-fitting rug can cause chafing, which is usually the cause of any coat damage. However, you will still need to remove the rug and groom your horse regularly to avoid matting and rubbed or broken hairs.

Can rugging a horse cause overheating?

Using a rug incorrectly or using heavy rugs in warmer weather can potentially cause overheating in your horse. It’s important to change rugs out according to weather conditions and your horse’s needs to ensure that they are warm and comfortable without being overly hot.

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