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How to Measure a Horse for a Rug


A rug is one of the most important parts of a horse’s wardrobe for many. It is not a one size fits all item that can be shared between horses usually. It is vital to get the fit right, so the horse feels comfortable and to avoid any rubbing or chaffing or at worst getting stuck. It doesn’t matter if you’ve bought horse rugs before, each horse should be treated individually and measured for a new rug every time. Too tight and the horse will feel much discomfort, too loose and it will slip round, and they could get stuck. The purpose of a rug is to provide warmth, so if too loose there is no point in the horse wearing the rug, as it will not be feeling the benefit from it.

The idea is to keep the horse warm and comfortable during the winter and not to catch a chill after exercise during spring/summer. This could require different types of rugs so bear this in mind before purchasing what your main goal is. 

We have rounded up the different types of rugs available on the market to allow you to make the best buy for your’s and the horse’s needs. We have also included a ‘how to’ guide for measuring your horse for a hug as well as how to fit it correctly so the horse is protected yet comfortable. 

Ladies Horse Riding Outfit

It is good to bear in that it’s just as bad to overheat a horse with over rugging, as it is to under rug. You must be very careful with this and be good at responding to the change in weather. Some horses are naturally very hot and should require hardly any rugging.

Another top tip is that if you are clipping out your horse for over wintertime, a heavier weight rug may be required, depending on the clip you choose. It is good to know what clip and which weight rug you need before doing the clipping too, there’s nothing worse than clipping and then realising you don’t have what you need!

Types of rug

There are several types of horse rugs that you might want to consider. They all have different purposes and uses, so consider this before buying one. Some may be considered more important than others, but all are useful for different scenarios.

Turnout rugs

These are waterproof jackets, which in the UK, these can be a necessity. Designed for outdoor use mainly, a turnout rug will keep the horse as dry as possible, as well as keep the cold out. You will need to check the thickness of the rug as they do come in variable degrees so think about its usage. Some rugs now come with detachable inners, which are great for the changing seasons.

Stable rugs

As the name suggests, these are designed for indoor stable use only. They are not waterproof like turnout rugs are so they will not protect the horse in wet weather. They tend to have more cushion and a softer feel too so think of them like a blanket for your horse. Again, they come in a range of thickness so double check this before buying and remember to try not overheat or let them catch a chill

Summer fly sheets

A horse cannot wear thick rugs all year round, which is why summer sheets are needed. These rugs are usually made of light cotton, a fine mesh weave or a mixture of both. The idea is to still offer some protection for the horse, but the main purpose is to keep the flies away. If your horse is particularly sensitive to flies, you can get summer sheets that offer more coverage for the neck, belly and tail. These are especially good if you horse suffers with sweet itch or something like. Fly masks are also available if the flies get really bad.

Waffle/Cooler rugs

Just like us humans like a fleece blanket when it’s particularly cold, horses can do too. These are a great rug for cool downs as they help to wick sweat whilst keeping the horse warm but not too hot. A waffle or fleece sheet is extremely versatile as it can be used instead of a stable rug, if your horse needs a very thin layer. It is also ideal for travelling to shows to keep them clean and you can even use it as a base layer for heavier, outdoor rugs as extra protection. The cooler rug is an essential rug for most horses.

Ladies Horse Riding Jacket

Exercise sheets

This is the rug where features are most important. Many offer waterproof protection, some have high-vis elements to them, ideal for road riding, and some are more fleece based for warmth. These are great for going under or around the saddle when out riding and will keep a clipped horse warm and dry.  

How to measure your horse

Horse rugs are measured in feet and inches and in increments of 3” for the UK system. It is usually best to size up if the horse is in-between sizes as you need to consider the width of them. Unless it is a narrow or petite horse, it is best to get the next size up. This is not a measurement you can estimate, it needs to be done properly.

You might also need to grab someone to help you out here too as it can be a tricky job trying to measure the length of a horse!

  1. Start from the centre of the horse’s chest with a soft tape measure. 
  2. Measure until you reach the horse’s buttocks, the widest part of the back of the horse. 
  3. You may also need to measure the top of the horse, from wither to tail, as some brands use European sizing in which the measurements will be smaller. Take this measurement in centimetres, rather than feet and inches.
  4. Measure the horse again just to make sure you have the sizing correct. Just to give you an idea a 14.2hh Connemara is in around a 6’0 ft rug.
  5. Time to buy your horse a new rug!

How to fit the rug

Once you’ve measured the horse and purchased a rug for them, it’s time to try it on. We recommend popping a clean cotton sheet over the horse first, just in case the rug is ill-fitting. You may be able to return or exchange it, but it will need to remain like new. The rug also needs to be long enough to protect the horse but not too long that it ends up caught. 

  1. Check the front: The rug should sit around 2-4 inches in front of the withers and comfortably around the shoulders. Make sure it is snug enough to not fall off but not tight that the horse struggles to move freely.
  2. Check the back: It should reach the top of the tail when the horse has its head down and is relaxed. It must sit here or it does not fit properly. Too short and the horse will not be properly protected. Too big and it will restrict its tail movement. 
  3. Adjust the surcingles and leg straps: There should be around a hand’s width between the strap and the horse’s body. This will give the horse much more freedom to move and allow them to be comfortable as well. The last thing we want is for the horse to get its legs trapped and tangled with the rug. 

Getting a rug for your horse requires getting the measurements correct and fitting it properly. However, the most important point is to make sure it is the right rug for the horse and what you need. It might mean you need to purchase multiple rugs for different uses but you might not need all the rugs at any one time. For example, you can purchase summer sheets in early spring and fleece rugs at the end of summer in preparation for autumn/winter. 

The main thing is that the horse feels protected but is also comfortable. Any rug needs to be snug and fitted, rather than tight or oversized. With the right rug being used for the right season and.

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