AniMac is bringing canvas rugs back to the UK with its tried and tested rugs developed in New Zealand.
There was once a time when the only option was New Zealand rug made from canvas ...
Before the equestrian industry was industrialised, turnout rugs were produced by hand, using natural fibres like canvas and wool that were best suited for their fundamental purpose - protecting the horse. Rugs were designed to last and when they could no longer be used they were repaired, repurposed or burnt.
However, when the mechanisation of textiles began, products made of high quality materials which were typically purchased every few years were substituted with synthetic versions at a fraction of the price.
The UK horse rug market is now dominated by synthetic materials, and the use of natural materials like canvas seems to be extinct.
However, if you want a product that is weather-resistant, outdoor-ready, and tough as hell, canvas is a great choice and should definitely have a place in the market.
We live in a material world
We live in a world of instant gratification, but while equestrian fast fashion might seem easy on your budget, the planet is paying a high price for this trend.
It’s not easy to keep using last season's rug when faced with the tempting array of newness and colour on offer in the stores. But before heading online for those irresistible seasonal rug deals, spare a thought for the impact that each of these flashy finds has on the environment, and potentially, on your horse's health.
Seasonal horse rug trends rely on lowering costs to deliver new products into the hands of consumers. Unfortunately, while affordable and appealing, these products are often the most damaging to the planet.
If you are like many nature-loving horse owners, you may be alarmed to hear that consumer demand for rugs with vibrant prints contributes to an industry that is the second largest polluter of clean water globally.
Bright and flashy rugs may look appealing to some, but many of these prints are achieved with toxic chemicals - chemicals you are leaving on your horse all day and all night!
While cotton, wool, and other natural fibers will completely biodegrade within a few months to a few years, polyester takes up to hundreds of years to completely break down, and this is a big problem.
Synthetic fibers like polyester and nylon are the most popular fabrics used for rugs today. But when these polyester products are washed, they can leach microfibres which add to the terrifyingly high levels of plastic that are polluting waterways and our oceans.
Luckily, there are alternative solutions. It is possible to create products with sustainable fibers that coexist with nature instead of destroying it...
Canvas and wool rugs
Canvas is built to withstand whatever kind of nonsense your horse throws at it. Unlike fast-fashion prints, canvas just improves with age. The shape of the rug moulds to your horse, with sun fading, the rug develops a rough, tough utilitarian look (so much better than pink and purple polka dots!). Yes the wax wears off every couple of seasons, but can bring it back to life by re-waxing it, and feel good about it while you do so!
Wool lining is equally fantastic. Wool has been a valuable commodity for farmers and horsemen across cultures and thousands of years. It is made from a protein called keratin, the exact same substance that our hair is made from and is grown naturally on sheep that roam in flocks, living their best life in the open countryside. It takes a full year for a sheep to grow a fleece and once shorn, it will completely re-grow, providing a renewable source of fibre for the rest of its life.
This is a contrast to polyester, which Forbes reported in 2015 needs more than 70 billion barrels of oil for production annually, is not recyclable, and takes centuries to biodegrade.
Built to last
These days everyone likes to talk about sustainability, but the most sustainable thing to do is also the most obvious: don’t buy a new synthetic horse rug every six months - buy something natural that will last for years instead. Your horse will thank you for it!
The canvas rug AniMac is bringing into the UK is a traditional design that has been used in New Zealand for over 20 years and is known for being hardwearing and long-lasting, even with the most destructive of rug-wearers.
Nathan Thorowgood, director of AniMac, says “I believe canvas is a fantastic material to use for animal wear, and we need to start bringing the traditional canvas design into the 21st century.”