Now that winter is well and truly here I’m sure many of you feel like me, constantly putting on rugs or taking them off.
Working in a riding school you seen many interesting attempts and putting on rugs. I’ve seen the tail flap around the neck, and the rug inside out – God knows how they managed to do all the straps up! – to name but a few ways.
This post will attempt to explain how to put a rug on correctly, and more importantly, why we go to these lengths.
Firstly, the horse should obviously be secured. Have you ever tried putting a rug on a moving horse? It’s a merry dance!
Straps should be secured so that you don’t take an eye – either yours or hour equines – out as you lift the rug on. Belly sue ingles can be knotted loosely together and leg straps clipped to the D-ring on the same side as the strap.
Fold the rug in half. This is particularly useful if you suffer from short-arm-itis like myself, and have a long horse. Half a rug is much easier to throw on than the full length.
Once the rug is on the horse’s back it needs unfolding. There is usually a useful coloured stripe which can be aligned with the spine to make sure the rug is sitting evenly. Try not to pull the rug up the horse as this quiffs the coat and gives an interesting appearance the next time the rug is removed.
The first straps you should do up are the belly surcingles as this means if the horse panics and runs forward the rug will slide off their hindquarters, and not twist around as would happen if the chest straps were done up first. I have heard of horses breaking their shoulders as they trip over a twisted rug.
Belly surcingles should be fitted so that a flat palm can be placed between it and the horse’s stomach, too loose a straps endanger the horse as they can get a hind leg stuck when rolling or kicking a fly. The surcingles are crossed to further reduce the risk of horses getting tangled up.
The chest straps are fairly straightforward. A lot of rugs nowadays have clips at the from which can be adjusted by a buckle. It drives me nuts when people undo the buckle, unthread the clip and cause me to waste ten minutes of my life doing the buckle back up with icy fingers. I always think the clip should face the horse in case they lean on their fence and attach themselves to it.
If the horse has a neck piece on the rug then this can be folded up and fastened, ensuring the mane lies flat.
Finally the rug can be pulled back onto the quarters so that it is straight, without putting too much pressure on shoulders and withers. If the rug has a fillet string then the tail needs to be lifted over.
Alternatively, rugs can have leg straps which are often done up incorrectly. The purpose of these straps is to help stabilise the rug and stop it slipping during a good roll.
The leg strap passes from the front of the hind leg, along the inside, and is clipped up to the D-ring on the same side as the front. This means that the strap loops the hind leg, not crossing diagonally across the hind legs. The next strap mirrors the first except that it threads through the first strap. The straps are linked so that they don’t rub on the inner thigh and exert opposite forces to keep the rug level.
Finally, you should give the horse a once over to ensure that there are no taut areas of the rug, as this indicates a poor fit and the horse could be in discomfort when moving. A lot of makes of rugs are slightly different designs will suit different figures of equine. Really, it’s a bit like shopping in Next or Top Shop!