Like with most things, as you start to look at buying something you soon discover there are more options and more to consider than you had thought. The same goes for horse rugs which have a variety of types and uses, let's go through the main types here so you can get a better understanding of what they are for and which is best for your situation to keep your horse comfortable.
What are the main types of horse rugs?
There are wide range of blankets for horses, the main ones are:
- Fly Rugs
- Turnout Rugs
- Stable Rugs
- Cooler Rugs
Also called Fly Sheets, these are designed for the summer months to keep your horse cool and protect their coat from insects during hot weather.
Many fly rugs are just made from mesh to protect the horse from flies but these only serve one purpose and a more useful option is a fly rug that also provides sun protection help regulate the horses body temperature.
A fly sheet made with a light coloured reflective material will keep the neck and body cooler by reflecting the sun's heat away yet remaining breathable to let air pass through. These are made of lightweight material but also need to be durable and not restrict the horses movements at all. Often featuring a detachable neck cover for regulating body temperature during warmer months.
See here how they stay well fitting despite the actions of the horse.
Turn Out Rugs
Turnout Rugs are very versatile and are not specific to just one season, for that reason are one of the most popular types of horse rug. They are perfect for your horse to wear outside in most types of weather and a variety of conditions. They are made of durable, waterproof but breathable fabric with sturdy straps to keep them in place.
Being from New Zealand our turnout rugs are made from canvas with a wax proofing to stop water coming in contact with your horse's skin and feature a wool lining for warmth when our in the field during the winter months.
Why is canvas a good material for turn out rugs?
Canvas horse rugs are popular due to them being made from natural fibres which give them the fundamental features found in many of nature's materials; strong and lightweight.
It is woven in a tight weave called 'ripstop' it is this process that gives them the familiar checkered pattern you will be used to seeing. As the name suggests the ripstop design helps reduce the chances of rips and holes from appearing, this is very important in a horse rug as they need to be durable to withstand the activities of the horse out in the paddock.
Canvas is not naturally waterproof so needs to be processed during manufacture to resist water and rain to keep the horse dry.
See how to activate the waterproofing of your canvas rug.
Cooler rugs (also called an exercise sheet) are designed to deal with sweat on a horse after exercise and want to reduce the chances of them getting chilled.
They wick away any moisture that your horse has on their coat following a bath or exercise. This prevents the horse from becoming cold and the added feature of having the rugs made from a breathable material means the horse will dry naturally as their muscles cool down.
Generally, stable rugs are made of lightweight materials like cotton. They're designed to be worn indoors or outside in mild weather and are perfect for travelling in horse boxes or at horse shows to keep your horse clean and comfortable.
These rugs are not waterproof and so need to be kept dry and are not intended to be used on a horse who is outside in the rain or exposed to the elements directly.
There are often different types of stable rugs made for different temperature ranges with some suited for spring and autumn and other heavy duty versions for the peak of winter cold.
What are the main fabric types of horse rugs?
There are many options for materials manufacturers have when making a horse rug, the main attributes they look at for each one is how durable, waterproof, windproof, breathable they are.
A tightly woven fabric made from natural fibres and is used in thousands of different applications around the world that benefit from its properties of being lightweight and strong. Canvas often makes up the outer layer and is combined with an inner layer to keep the horse warm.
In the production of canvas, it is often treated to make it waterproof, offer UV protection and to be fire resistant.
A stain-resistant fabric made from petroleum products that make it lighter than canvas and scuff resistant. Does not provide much warmth so often will have a layer of polyester fill to improve how well it insulates.
Polyester is a material that is both lightweight and affordable. It's made from coal and petroleum products and it's cheaper than nylon and though it is strong it is not as tough as nylon.
Cotton is the most widely used natural fabric for apparel manufacturing across the world. This is because it has many positive features including being breathable, soft and a great all-weather textile.
Although it does have its disadvantages including not being as strong as other materials and is more expensive, for these reasons it is often blended with other fabrics.
The best fabrics may be a combination of two materials, such as nylon and polyester. This often leads to fabrics that display the qualities from both materials e.g a nylon/polyester blend should deliver the strength of nylon with the affordability of polyester.
It is up to the individual manufacturers to find what they think is the right balance between affordability and toughness.