Types of horse rugs and materials

horse rug types

While some horses do not need to be rugged at all, there are certain circumstances where a horse should be rugged: horses that are clipped during the winter months, horses kept in boxes that don't get to grow a proper coat and cannot move about to regulate their temperature, and horses that struggle to adapt to cold weather (elderly horses, thin-skinned breeds, and horses with health conditions).  

But which types of horse rugs should you use?

 Here is the lowdown on the different types of horse rugs

  • Fly Rugs
  • Turnout Rugs
  • Stable Rugs
  • Cooler Rugs

Fly rugs

Also called Fly Sheets, these are designed for the summer months to keep your horse cool and protect its coat from insects during hot weather. 

Many fly rugs are made from mesh, but this is not always the best material. Canvas can provide sun protection, help regulate the horse's temperature and offer protection from larger biting insects. It is recommended to use them when temperatures exceed 25°C as a study found horses are at risk of heat stress.

Summer sheets need to be made of lightweight material that is also durable and not restrictive of the horse's movement. For extra protection, some models feature a detachable neck cover too.


Turnout rugs

Turnout Rugs are very versatile and hard-wearing, making them one of the most popular types of horse rugs.

They are perfect for your horse to wear outside in most types of weather being made of durable, waterproof but breathable fabric with sturdy straps to keep them in place.  

Hailing from New Zealand, the original turnout rug is made from canvas with wax proofing to stop rain and humidity from coming in contact with the horse's skin.

This type of turnout rug features a soft wool lining for warmth and extra comfort all winter long. While synthetic fibres trap moisture between the fibres, wool absorbs it away from your horse and insulates against both cold and heat to help prevent his back muscles from overheating. In a seeming paradox, wool can absorb and repel moisture simultaneously. 

Canvas is still a great material for turnout rugs.

Stable rugs

Designed to be worn indoors or outside only in mild weather, stable rugs are also perfect for transporting horses to shows or events.

Some people will occasionally turn horses out in stable rugs with a rain sheet on top, but they are not designed for paddock conditions. 

Stable rugs made vary in weight for different temperature ranges with some suited for spring and autumn and others constructed for the arctic cold.

Cooler/ sweat rugs

Cooler rugs (also called exercise or sweat rugs) are generally used on sweaty horses to help the dry off and prevent chills. 

These rugs wick away any moisture allowing the horse to dry and preventing chill.

Often they are made from a breathable material like wool, which means the horse will dry naturally as its muscles cool down.

What fabrics are used to create a horse rug?

Horse rugs are constructed out of many different materials, each with its own unique attributes. 

- Canvas

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.

Canvas is treated to make it waterproof and provide UV protection and fire-resistant traits.

Our winter turnout rugs are made from natural canvas which makes them strong, breathable and lightweight. The canvas we use is woven into a tight weave called 'ripstop' which gives it the familiar checkered pattern you will be used to seeing. As the name suggests, ripstop material is designed to reduce the chances of rips and holes from appearing, which is important in a horse rug as they need to be durable enough to withstand the activities of a horse out in the paddock. Canvas is not naturally waterproof and it needs to be processed for water resistance during manufacturing.  

Canvas rugs breathe well and yet they do not allow for dampness to reach your horse's back.  Other designs are made from synthetic material with no lining at all, this type of rain sheet is designed to keep water away on particularly stormy days. 

- Wool 

Wool is both a versatile and durable fiber that grows with a crimped wavy form. This gives wool excellent properties of elasticity and resilience and the structure of wool fiber enables it to mesh with the hair on your horse's back, to stop your rug moving without friction.

- Nylon

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

Polyester is a material that is both lightweight and affordable. It's made from coal and petroleum products and it's cheaper than nylon though it is strong it is not as tough as nylon.

- Cotton

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. It does have its disadvantages including not being as strong as other materials and being more expensive, for these reasons it is often blended with other fabrics.

- Blends

The best fabrics may be a combination of two materials, such as nylon and polyester. This often leads to fabrics that display the qualities of both materials e.g a nylon/polyester blend. It is up to the individual manufacturers to use what they think is the right, considering affordability, wearability and comfort for the horse. 


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