No idea what rug to choose for your horse this winter? With so many different options, types and styles out there, it’s no wonder! One Stop Horse Shop has created this handy guide, to give you all the options and help you make the right choice for YOUR horse! We have broken this up in to two sections – one for synthetic rugs, and one for canvas.
Synthetic rugs are becoming more and more popular now, and do offer plenty of advantages. They are light, they can be an all-in-one solution (without the need for heavy layers or under rugs), can be tough and they tend to be much more attractive than canvas (for those fashion conscious horse owners!). When purchasing a synthetic rug, you need to take the following in to consideration:
Rug or Combo
Depending on your horses needs and your preferences, you may just like a simple rug, or if you feel your horse requires extra protection and warmth, you could opt for a combo which has a neck rug included. Some styles of synthetic rug will also come with a detachable neck rug, for those who like the flexibility of being able to choose depending on conditions.
Synthetic rugs come in a variety of different deniers – which is the strength and density of the outer material. Rugs usually start at 600 denier and go up to 1200 or even up to 1800+. Generally speaking, the higher the denier, the tougher and stronger it is, and therefore will be more rip resistant. If your horse lives full time out in the paddock, particularly within a large paddock in a herd situation, with natural trees etc or poor fencing, then it can be a wise move to purchase a rug with the highest possible denier rating that you can find and/or afford. If however your horse is in a private paddock with electric fencing, it may not be as necessary as there won't be anything a horse can catch the rug on (or any pesky paddock mates to chomp on it!).
Weight / Fill (Warmth)
Synthetic rugs are also available with different levels of fill, which basically equates to thickness and warmth. Some rugs have no fill and are simply a waterproof synthetic rain sheet, some have around 180 - 200 grams of fill (which is great for a multipurpose rug – warm enough for most conditions, but not too warm during the day that your horse will overheat), or for really harsh conditions and freezing winter nights, you can choose a 300 gram fill for the ultimate in warmth. When choosing 300 grams however, you do need to be careful on sunny days, as your horse could well overheat!
Sometimes you can also find synthetic rugs with different linings. Many of them are simply synthetically or satin lined (similar to a sleeping bag). Others can often be lined in polar fleece or a similar warmer material. This can certainly add to the warmth of a rug, but may or may not be needed. Fleece lining will also harbour more loose hair, dust and dander, so will need more cleaning and maintenance. Another alternative, would be to place a separate polar fleece or cotton rug underneath, which can be cleaned more easily, whilst keeping your horse more cozy than a plain lining.
Canvas rugs are the traditional option and for some horses can offer a more hard-wearing solution. They can also be slightly more flexible, as you can add or remove different layers of blankets and under-rugs as required. You can often have more control over how warm your horse is in this manner. This in turn however, can be more labour intensive, so it really comes down to your horses living arrangements and your own personal circumstances and preferences.
A canvas rug, like a synthetic, also comes in different outer strengths or weights. Canvas is measured in ounces (oz), and the bigger the number, the stronger and better it is. They can also be either unlined or blanket lined. Plus you can choose between just a plain rug, a canvas combo rug (with the neck rug attached) or you can get a separate canvas neck rug that can be added or removed as required.
Whilst a canvas rug can be very hard wearing and a good quality one can last for many years and seasons, they do tend to require re-waterproofing at the beginning of each season to ensure the rain can't seep through! This however, whilst being a bit of extra maintenance, is a simple process with many waterproofing products available (just ensure you choose one specifically designed for canvas!). Simply spray on a few coats (always follow the directions) and you are back in business again. Synthetic rugs don't usually need this, however there are waterproofing products available for synthetic fabrics if you feel it is necessary, or to rejuvenate an older rug.
It's also worth noting - that when you first purchase a brand new canvas rug, it usually needs to be hosed down with water thoroughly, to allow the thread in the seams to swell up and expand, and then be allowed to dry completely, before use. This ensures that the rug will be water tight when on the horse - as otherwise the seams might leak.
When all is said and done, rug choice often comes down to personal preference and trial and error to see what suits your horse and their living conditions. My personal preference is a quality synthetic combo with at least 1200 denier and usually around 200 grams of fill. As we are usually flat out it is far too time-consuming to be changing rugs several times a day. I also struggle with being able to physically throw a really heavy canvas rug over the back of a very tall horse, so a light synthetic for me is much easier to handle. Plus the pretty colours are nice, and do have the advantage of being bright enough to see way out across the paddock, or in the dark and cold, so that you can locate a horse more easily. However my husband much prefers the traditional canvas rugs, and has plenty of strength to be able to toss them over his horses, and tells me that a good spotlight solves everything. So when it comes to rugs, in many way, it really is 'horses for courses'! Seek out as much information as possible, compare the benefits of each rug you find, and choose the one that best suits you and your horse!
Ready to start shopping? Take a look at our great new winter rug range!