Ross Emmett has a wonderful lecture called “Is what you are wearing wearing you out?”.

He talks about how our clothes and jewellery affect our bodies; how eye glasses can make your neck tight, how laced up shoes can affect your balance, how the clips and fastenings on bras can affect shoulder discomfort and range of movement or how a bracelet or a watch can affect forearm strength.

It’s the same for horses, the clothes we make them wear can wear them out too.

It’s Winter here in Australia and New Zealand and on my rounds I am seeing many issues caused by ill fitting rugs. Sore shoulders and withers being the most common.

So, with the help of Amber and the Cleveland Bay Stallion, Ferndale Springs St Patrick, let's have a look at some common issues. I am using a cotton rug in these photos but the same applies to all types of rugs.

This rug is a good fitThis rug is a good fit. It fits comfortably around the shoulders and the sheepskin patch lies just in front of the withers.

If he was to put his head down to graze, the buckle in front would not interfere with his neck.

The rug is snug in front but not too tight.

The rug sits nicely over the hind quarters.


Front view of well fitting rugsThis is the same rug. If you look closely you can see Amber’s fingers on the withers. The rug is sitting nicely just in front of them.

If the rug sits too tightly here it can affect the soft tissue in front of the withers, causing soreness and even an indentation in the muscles!

A well fitting rug seen from the backAt the back, the end of the rug sits approximately where the tail leaves the body (I have tucked the tail flap out of the way so you can see more easily).

This is the ideal spot for the rug to sit.


This rug is too smallNext we have a rug that is too small. As you can see here, there is about 3 inches between the end of the rug and Paddy’s tail.

This rug is too small and is pulling across the chestAt the front, the rug is quite tight and you can see, if he put his head down to graze it would put pressure on the underside of his neck and also it would be pulling down on, and compressing, the bony structures of the withers and the surrounding soft tissue.


More commonly I see rugs that are too big. They can look comfortable when you put them on the horse but after the horse takes a few strides they can become quite restricting and uncomfortable.

This rug is too large

Our lovely model is now wearing a rug that is too large for him.

The rug has pulled back almost behind his withers and if you look at the point of the shoulder, the material is tight and will be rubbing here. 

Badly fitting rug seen from the frontLooking at the hind quarters, you can see that the rug has dropped way past his tail and the part that is shaped for his hind quarters is now too far back and is actually assisting to pull the rug even further back with each stride taken.

If we look from front on we can see how the rug is sitting behind his shoulder and is pulling back across his body.

Rug seen from the back


If we pull this rug forward, so that the back of it sits nicely above his tail, we can see how loose it is in front and again, Amber’s hand is on the withers.

This rug is too loose around the shoulders

A rug which fits loosely around the neck can look comfortable when the horse is standing still but it will eventually ride backwards and even end up right behind the withers. Ouch!


Next time you are taking your horse’s rugs off check and see where they have ended up overnight or the next day.

Are they still in the same position you left them or have the moved? Or slipped to one side? Are your horse’s rugs making him uncomfortable?

If you have any questions about how your horse’s clothes can affect him (or how your clothes are affecting you!) please contact me via my website or Facebook.

Thank you to the lovely Ferndale Springs St Patrick for being my model today. You can find him on Facebook too!

Enjoy your horses!


©ReQuest Soft Tissue Therapies 2017