Which rug does my horse need?

When we humans get cold, horses only just begin to feel really comfortable. Horses have a different thermal neutral zone. This means that the temperature range in which a horse is neither too warm nor too cold is between -15 and + 25 ° C, while the absolute comfort temperature for us humans is between 27 and 32 ° C. Actually, this means that horses in our part of the world do not need rugs. However, there are a few exceptions that we would like to present to you in the guide.

Pferd im Schnee

1. When do horses need a rug?

Horses are good at regulating their own temperature in the wild. The so-called thermoregulation is an interplay of coat condition, body fat percentage, sweat gland activity, muscle contraction and vascular movement. If, for example, the horse is clipped or moves very little due to illness or age, the missing component of thermoregulation must be compensated for by using a rug.

  • Older and sick horses with weakened immune systems
  • Clipped horses
  • Horses whose natural fat layer is no longer intact due to excessive cleaning or washing

2. What rug does a horse need?

Which rug your horse needs depends, among other things, on the following factors:

  • Way of housing: Depending on where the horse is kept, the requirements for horse rugs also differ. If the horse is in the stable, it needs a stable rug. If outside, a weatherproof lightweight or heavyweight rug is necessary.

  • Weather conditions: The weather conditions are an important factor when choosing a suitable rug. Depending on the weather, these can even vary hourly, so that it may be necessary to change rugs several times a day.

  • Coat condition: a horse that has not been clipped usually does not need a rug. A rug is necessary for clipped horses and also for horses that have problems with the formation of winter coat due to illness.

  • Breed: Robust breeds such as Icelandic horses or Fjord horses can in most cases do without rugs. Genetically, they have a pronounced insulating layer of fat and the winter coat is also more abundant than in other breeds.

  • Activity level: Body heat is mainly generated with the help of the muscles. If a horse moves a lot on its own, it can be assumed that it needs less help with thermoregulation than a horse that is less active due to illness or nature.

  • Disease / old age: Thermoregulation demands a lot from the horse’s organism. If this is weakened, for example due to a chronic illness, metabolic disorders or due to old age, the probability is greater that additional warmth in the form of a rug will be required.

  • The horse’s individual perception of cold: Each horse has its own comfortable temperature in the area of the thermo-neutral zone. Like us humans, the feeling of cold is very individual. Some horses prefer it to be warm, some only feel comfortable when temperatures are around minus degrees. Watch your horse and find out what type it belongs to!

3. Purchase advice for stable & turnout rugs

Lightweight, medium weight and heavyweight rugs

Whether a horse needs a warming rug depends on a number of factors. Keep in mind that a rug has a significant influence on the horse’s thermoregulation, which is why it should only be used for good reasons. These reasons can be the outside temperature, the type of keeping, the age, the state of health and the horse’s individual sensitivity to cold or whether the horse is in training and is (partially) clipped.

Rugs are available in different versions with varying weights of filling to suit the individual needs of the horse as mentioned above. The fillings are given in grams/square metre. Rugs are available with a filling of 50g to 400g. 50g to 100g rugs are only slightly warm and are therefore particularly well suited for the transitional period or for horses that keep their coat in winter and are not clipped.

All rugs from 200g are intended for cold temperatures, with 200-300g having medium warmth performance and being suitable for both clipped and non-clipped horses. For horses that are very sensitive to cold and clipped horses, we recommend heavyweight rugs with 400g.

No fill turnout rugs

No fill turnout rugs are waterproof turnout rugs without filling, so they do not have any warming properties. They serve purely as rain and weather protection and are well suited for horses in spring and autumn. Particularly for field-kept horses that have only limited shelter available. A correct fit and size are therefore important to prevent moisture from getting under the rug. For particularly sensitive horses, turnout rugs with a neck cover are ideal to protect the horse completely.

Thanks to combination systems consisting of different rugs, the horse can also be rugged with a no fill turnout rug in winter, provided that an appropriately warming inner liner is placed underneath.

Stable rugs

Stable rugs are rugs that protect the horse in the stable from unhealthy draughts and therefore from catching a cold. There are also different fillings here, so that every horse has a rug available that is tailored to its individual needs. Stable rugs do not necessarily have to be water-repellent or waterproof, but they should be wind-repellent in order to fulfil their function.

Wicking rugs can also be used as stable rugs, but it is important to remember that bedding can stick to the fleece. Stable rugs with a smooth outside are more suitable from this point of view.

No fill or lightweight stable rugs also make very good travel rugs. Stable rugs of 100g or more are intended for cold temperatures, clipped, older and/or sick horses to give them more warmth by providing a thicker layer.

Find out which rug you need for your horse:

Please note that the choice of the right horse rug in individual cases (e.g. due to age, illness or other anatomical & physiological peculiarities) may differ from the diagram and is only intended as a rough guide. Especially in the case of chronic diseases or diseases of the musculoskeletal system (such as osteoarthritis), an additional cushion may be necessary or even be beneficial to health. Your horse’s individual sensitivity to cold also plays a role. Robust breeds like Icelandic horses or Fjord horses usually don’t need a rug at all. Please keep in mind that you know your horse best and can best judge when it needs which rug. If you are unsure which rug is the right one for your horse, please contact our customer service.

Keyword Rugging

The transition period in autumn and spring is a particularly difficult phase in terms of „rug management“. The temperatures fluctuate very strongly during the day, so that at night the temperatures can drop below freezing point, while the t-shirt weather is pleasant again at midday. Here horse owners have to deal with their horse individually, so that it may be necessary to change rugs several times a day. This may be laborious, but it protects against life-threatening heat build-up under the rug! If you leave a horse with a thickly padded rug in the paddock in mild temperatures and blazing sun for a long time, you risk circulatory collapse.

Which rug is right for my horse?

You now know whether and which filling you need for your horse’s rug, but what about the subtleties? Stable and turnout rugs are available in different cuts and with numerous details. To help you decide more quickly which model is right for your horse, you will find an overview here:

Regular NeckHighneckFullneck
Decke mit Regular NeckDecke mit HighneckDecke mit Fullneck
+ protects the most important areas of the horse from the elements+ greater protection against cold and rain
+ maximum protection against cold and rain
+ optimal at mild temperatures+ rain does not get in so easily through the neckline+ good if there is a tendency to muscular tension in the neck area
+ ideal fit for horses with strong necks+ better fit with higher withers
+ recommended for full clip
+ mane protection+ mane protection
– sometimes difficult fit in horses with high withers or larger neck– difficult fit in horses with strong neck– difficult fit in horses with long and / or strong neck

Pay attention to the details when buying lightweight and heavyweight rugs:

  • Closures: Closures on the chest and abdomen are standard. Turnout rugs are usually closed on the belly with cross surcingles for the best possible hold, stable rugs are sometimes also available without surcingles. Basically, the more straps, the better the hold. If your horse moves a lot and likes to roll in the paddock or in the stable, for example, you should definitely pay attention to this. There are also different types of closures such as snap hooks, magnetic snap closures or the common T-closure, which can be opened differently (easily).

  • Gussets: If the horse is standing in the paddock for a longer period of time and moves a lot, the horse rug should be equipped with generously cut gussets.

  • Tail flap: Stable and turnout rugs are optionally available with or without a tail flap. A generous tail flap provides additional protection from the cold, but also from rain running down the tail and down the thighs. Thus, the tail flap is a useful feature on turnout rugs.

  • Reflective details: are particularly recommended for turnout rugs if the horse is still in the paddock in the early morning or in the evening hours.

4. Purchase advice for wicking rugs & exercise rugs

Wicking rugs

The wicking rug is part of the basic equipment of most riders. After the training, the rug is put on to cool down. In this way, the horse’s coat dries faster and protects it from evaporation cold, drafts and the resulting muscular tension. In addition, wicking rugs are often used for warming on cooler days, for example when warming up or in the trailer.

Cooling down

Please note that cooling down in walk cannot be replaced by the best wicking rug. The drying of the coat is only supported by putting on the wicking rug. In addition, cooling down is also of great importance in terms of a healthy relationship between horse and rider and initiates the relaxation phase after training so that the heart and breathing rates can normalise again. No wicking rug can achieve this effect on its own.

Most wicking rugs are made of fleece material, but there are also other breathable materials that are suitable for use as wicking rugs:

Abschwitzdecke aus FleeceAbschwitzdecke aus MikrofaserAbschwitzdecke aus Jersey
+ warming
+ breathable
+ quick drying
+ robust
+ elastic
+ easy to care for
+ breathable
+ quick drying
+ supple material
+ lint-free
+ tearproof
+ very light and airy
+ smooth, bedding does not stick
+ soft
+ breathable
+ absorbent
+ stretchable
+ smooth, bedding does not stick
+ easy to care for
+ climate regulating
– tendency to pilling with frequent washes
– bedding and dirt get stuck in the material
– electrostatic charge
– quickly flammable
– can slip through the smooth material, especially on clipped horses– tthe fabric contracts minimally after washing
– not as warming as e.g. fleece

When buying a wicking rug, pay attention to the following details:

  • Closures: If wicking rugs are used for cooling down, one should make sure that there are no annoying closures that can hang down on the horse and thus possibly become a life-threatening trip hazard. With some rugs, the straps can be completely removed in such cases. If the horse is to be left unattended with the rug for a longer period of time, for example in the transporter or in the stable after training, fasteners are a must. If there are no fasteners, you can also buy an elastic surcingle. Which other accessories can be useful for your horse rugs can be found in our guide on horse rug accessories.

  • Full Neck Wicking rugs: A full neck rug is actually not necessary for the purpose of cooling down, especially since the additional material when throwing over is rather a hindrance. If the horse has a higher need for warmth, tends to tension in the neck area or needs special protection from drafts, e.g. during transport, a full neck rug can be helpful.

  • Tail strap / cord: Not all wicking rugs have a tail cord or a tail strap so that rug does not slip to the side. Please note that some horses panic when the tail cord exerts pressure on the dock by rolling. You can also buy a tail strap if required.

Training rugs

In addition to the wicking rugs, exercise rugs and walker rugs are classic training rugs. Depending on what your horse’s training plan looks like, these rugs can be a sensible purchase:

PropertyWalker rugExercise rug
Purpose:leading, horse walker, walkingriding, warming up, cool-down
Cut:shoulder-freesaddle recess
Fastening:chest fastener, surcinglein front of the saddle or chest fastener
Material:polyester fleece, polyesterpolyester fleece, polyester
Optional:warming, breathable, waterproof, fly protection, reflective warmingbreathable, waterproof, fly protection, reflective

5. Purchase advice for fly & sweet itch rugs

Fly protection is one of the top issues among horse owners in summer. Horses can usually protect themselves very well from flies and other insects. They do this with the help of their mane and tail (e.g. by flicking their tail or by shaking their head), by muscle contraction or by rolling in the sand or mud. In order to achieve optimal protection against insects, horse owners can supplement the self-protection measures of the horses with fly protection products. In the fly protection guide you will find comprehensive information on how you can protect your horse even better from flies, midges and the like. Here we explain all the details about fly rugs to you.

Basically, fly rugs can be divided into two areas: the basic fly rugs and the sweet itch rugs. Since the fly protection is not only important in the field, there are special exercise rugs for the horse walker and summer rides. The basic rugs can also be supplemented with innovative solutions such as special colours or patterns or fabrics treated with fly repellents. We will show you which models offer your horse the best possible protection:

Basic fly rugsActivity fly rugsInnovative fly rugsSweet itch
Basic-FliegendeckeFliegendecke aktivInnovative FliegendeckeEkzemerdecke
Special featuresairy mesh material, protects the most important areasCut with saddle recess or shoulder clearanceColours and patterns: black and white pattern, colours orange & aquamarine
Repellent fly rugs: Rugs are additionally impregnated with a fly repellent
Fine-meshed fabric, covers most of the body
Protective effectIcon mit zwei FliegenIcon mit zwei FliegenIcon mit drei FliegenIcon mit vier Fliegen
Recommended forinsensitive horseshorses that are worked intensively (hacking, horse walker) and get nervous from insectssensitive horses that need additional protection without the use of fly spray, repellent rugs for horses that require maximum protectionsweet itch, extremely sensitive horses

Pay attention to the following details when buying a fly rug:

  • Gussets: Since fly rugs are mostly used outdoors, the horses‘ range of motion is correspondingly large. If the horse moves a lot, the maximum freedom of movement should be offered by gussets.

  • Fringes: Some rugs have fringes attached to the hem for additional protection. The movements of the horse also cause the fringes to swing back and forth, making it difficult for the insects to land.

  • Sun protection: Many fly rugs are now equipped with UV protection. This is particularly beneficial for fair-skinned horses and is a must to protect their body not only from insects, but also from sunburn. Anyone who has a horse suffering from sweet itch will most likely prefer to put their horse in the field between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., as the insects prefer to be active at dawn and in the evening hours. Here, too, a rug with good UV protection makes sense.

  • Rug colour: As with our summer clothing, it is advisable to choose light colours. Dark materials absorb sunlight, while light colours reflect light.

Do you have any questions about fly protection? Your horse suffers from sweet itch and you need tips to get through the summer with as few symptoms as possible? We have created an extensive advice area on the subject of fly protection and sweet itch.