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Under rugs are a very useful item to have in your horse’s rug wardrobe. They’re generally quite thin and lightweight, meaning they’re easy to wash and care for.
The real benefit of an under rug is that it can be used in a versatile way under a turnout rug or a stable rug, or both. They provide an extra layer to keep your horse warm in colder weather. Also called under blankets or liners, the thicker styles of under rugs come in different weights, as per usual Autumn and Winter horse rugs, with fibrefill a common internal filling, and polycotton a popular outer material. 200g-500g are common weights for the heavier types of under rug, while some of the types that look more akin to a lycra vest are very thin, with no filling. (The fibrefill internal padding tends not to ‘bunch up’ in pockets, meaning the rug keeps the horse consistently warm and comfy.)
A nice example of an under rug for horses and ponies is the Horseware Underblanket Plus which has a heavyweight, 300g filling and works well under a number of ‘combi’ or ‘combo’ rugs. The Horseware Underblanket Plus is made from a microfibre fabric blend and has a single front strap with no surcingles. This is common, as the outer rug will have various fixtures and fittings, and the manufacturers want to minimise the number of straps and attachments beneath the belly area for comfort and safety. This construction of this rug includes a material called Pongee, a soft, unbleached type of fabric based on a silk and cotton blend for comfort, and to avoid rubbing.
Look out for special features in under rugs such as nylon lined necks and insides, and no webbing on the neck seam, as these can help prevent rubs to the mane and other sensitive areas. Many under rugs have full necks, which can be folded back over the equine’s neck if worn inside the stable - very useful if for example they’re being worn in the day time, if the horse is staying in, or just on a milder night.
An alternative to the thicker types of under rug is the slimline ‘vest’ type. These are stretchy under rugs for horses that have close fitting belly closures, and work well as anti rub vests, as well as for an extra layer of warmth. These ‘nose to tail’ rugs are usually made from a lycra type material and are very useful for show days, or just when the horse needs to be kept clean and tidy. Because they are so slim-line, these under rugs are also great for travelling. They tend to provide full face coverage and cover the entire body.
While the thicker under rugs usually come in standard ‘feet and inches’ sizing, you may find that the stretchy vest types come in ‘Small to Large’ type sizing, so check the manufacturer’s instructions and guidelines. These sizings tend to cover a wider range - for example, Shires’ sizings have a Medium covering 5'9'' - 6'0'', and an XL covering the 6'9'' - 7'0'' size range. These ‘vest’ type under rugs often have zip fastenings under the neck, as opposed to ‘pull over the head’ hood versions, and can be quicker to fit than a hood.
On that note, a hood can be considered an under rug - however, they just cover the head and neck of the horse or pony, and are either left ‘loose’ at the shoulders, as a rug should keep them in place, or affix with some kind of belly attachment. The latter are perhaps more versatile, as they can be worn independently of an outer rug if required, maybe on a milder day if the horse is standing in the stable.