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Horse rugs tend to me made from Polycotton, Polyester, Nylon or (in the case of non-turnout rugs), wool blends.
Different weaves, meshes, blends and technologies (such as Rip-stop - see below) - are used effectively depending on the need of the rug.
Waterproofing and breathability are important benefits of a modern rug. We all know that an ideal turnout rug for our horse or pony should be both waterproof and breathable, but how are both these qualities achieved when they seem to contradict each other? Waterproofing is vital for an outdoor equine rug and this is achieved by the outer of a turnout rug being treated with a waterproofing solution. This waterproof coating offers a durable water repellent which stops the fabric absorbing water. Though this will slowly diminish with time, it can be prolonged with good care, and rugs can easily be re-proofed by a professional rug care company, or if you invest in a good re-proofing product- even at home!
Breathable horse rugs may be breathable due to the material construction or weave, such as a wicking or fleece rug, but some rugs marked as 'breathable' are treated with a special hydrophilic (‘water loving’) coating on the underside of the outer fabric. The coating works by drawing moisture away from the horse or pony and towards the outside of the rug - a process which is aided by the temperature difference between the warmth of the horse and the cold outside air. This clever coating is special because it allows sweat to evaporate, but doesn’t let water in. The reason for this is that the coating has ‘micro pores’ that are large enough to let water vapour out, but are too small for water droplets to come in. Brilliant, right?
Alongside 'waterproof' and 'breathable' our equines’ rugs also often come labels on them such as ‘Denier’ and ‘Rip-stop’; but what do these terms exactly mean?
These terms are important to look out for and understand, as they describe the quality of the properties in the material used to make the rug.
Denier is the measure of the weight of the material used to make the rug. The term relates to the number of yarns used to make one thread. For example, a rug which is labelled as 600 Denier (D) will have 600 yarns to each thread used, whereas a 1200D Rug will have 1200 yarns to each thread used.
This can provide a useful guide as to what you are looking for, for example a soft, comfortable stable rug is likely to be a lower denier whereas a higher denier will offer a harder wearing fabric, which is often bulkier and perfect for field turnout.
Rip-stop is a more recently coined term, and it means that the material used is interwoven with rip-stop reinforcement threads in a ‘cross hatch’ pattern. This makes the fabric much more resilient to damage, as it will not tear easily, as the threads run in two directions!
The Saddlery Shop has a wide range of rugs which you can browse.