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How to choose the right rug for your horse

Most owners agree that it’s good for horses to be turned out for at least part of the day all year round.

Thanks to advances in fabric and design technology, there is now a wide choice of durable, breathable and waterproof turnout rugs available to enable you to do this even when your horse is clipped.

Now’s the time to be thinking about rugs for the coming winter - but how do you decide which one to buy?              

The warmth of a rug is indicated in grams; the higher the grams, the more insulating fill per square metre. A 250gram model, generally known as heavyweight, will be extremely warm. A 160-240gram is considered medium-weight for chilly Spring and autumn nights, while up to 150gram is lightweight for summer use or as an under-rug for extra layering.

Some ultra-lightweight rugs have just 40gram of insulating filling, making them more valuable as a means of keeping the horse dry than warm.

The other measurement to look out for is the denier - the weight of yarn used in a given area of fabric. 1,000 denier or more is seriously heavy-duty, and therefore very durable.

Having two or even three rugs per horse allows you to 'dress' him according to the weather conditions and also to have a spare in case one is being repaired.Remember that it is possible to over-rug horses, putting them at risk of dehydration through unnecessary sweating, not to mention the discomfort of being unable to do what comes naturally - having a good coat-to-soil roll.

In general, however, modern turnout rugs have changed the way we keep our horses for the better. The older horses, who is perhaps prone to a little stiffness, will benefit from being kept warm while turned out. Even when it’s not cold, lightweight rugs can ensure the horse is clean and dry ready for you to ride - especially useful when you’re going to a show!

When taking your rugs to a tackshop for repair, they should be clean and dry. Apart from the unpleasantness for staff of having to handle dirty rugs, this also contravenes the Health & Safety at Work Act.

By visiting a BETA Retail Member tackshop (look for the BETA logo), you can be assured of good advice about choosing the best rugs for your horse. BETA also produces a Guide To Purchasing Your Outdoor Rug leaflet. Available free, the guide includes a glossary of terms from ripstop to taped seams, explains how to measure and fit rugs correctly and what to do in the event of a problem.
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