How to avoid rug marks and sores

How To Avoid Rug Marks and Sores

As rug season is well underway, find out how to avoid rug marks and sores that can be very uncomfortable for your horse.

How are rug marks and sores caused?

A good fitting rug will reduce the likelihood of your horse developing rub marks or, in the worst case, sores from the pressure points it creates. Rub sores are caused by a combination of one or all of the following:

equus bullet Pressure on your horse’s skin from ill-fitting and/or dirty rugs. Most often, the rug size used is incorrect or the horse has features which make them more susceptible to pressure point marks, e.g. high wither, a very lean build, etc.

equus bullet Wearing rugs or the same rug for extended periods, e.g. all through winter.

equus bullet Growing out of their summer coat with a thicker coat from late January through to early March as this makes the coat more susceptible to rubbing.

equus bullet A sensitive coat or skin where rubbing is more common.

What do marks and sores look like?

The rub marks generally appear first. These are easy to recognise as patchy parts of the coat in any of the areas listed below where the rug has rubbed away part or all of the coat. This progresses to cracked skin in the worse cases.

Rug Mark On Shoulder   Rug Sore On Wither

Where do marks and sores occur?

Pressure from an ill-fitting rug can occur in areas including:

equus bullet Wither

equus bullet Base of the neck

equus bullet Shoulder

equus bullet Chest

equus bullet Inside of the thigh

equus bullet Under the belly.

As soon as you see any sign of rubbing, try to work out the cause. Here are some suggestions of the most common fitting problems:

Rug Trouble-Shooting Guide
Area Symptom Cause and treatment
Wither Soreness or loss of hair The rug is too tight around the neck. Look for a rug brand with a deep cut neckline or a wither pad.
Base of neck An indentation in front of the wither that causes discomfort A common symptom of a standard fit rug. Change to a combo rug or another brand that has a better fit.
Shoulder Loss or patchiness of hair in and around the shoulder area The rug is slipping back, usually behind the wither, and is rubbing the shoulder. The rug is too big. Consider a smaller rug or if this doesn’t work, get a “bib”. Visit Stretch Hoods & Shoulder Guards to see our range. 
Chest Loss or patchiness of hair on the front of the chest The straps or clasps that are used to secure the rug at the front are rubbing the coat. Either: - The rug is too small. Get a Chest Extender - OR the rug is the right size but it hasn't been pulled far enough forward up the neckline and over the horse’s wither.
Inside thigh Chaffing in between rear legs The leg straps are too tight. Loosen them enough to prevent chaffing but not so much that they hang down too low.
Under the belly Chaffing The surcingles are too tight. Loosen them enough to allow the belly to move and expand comfortably with movement.

How should a rug mark or sore be treated?

The treatment of rubbing and/or chaffing wherever it occurs is relatively easy and quick to do. Prompt action at this stage will reduce how long the condition lasts but more importantly, prevent the condition from developing into sores. These usually need to be cleaned daily with warm water using an antiseptic wash like Hibiscrub. The rug sores should be covered with sterile dressings. Remember fresh air is a great healer as it’ll help to dry up the rug sores.

It goes without saying that actual rug sores are best avoided, as once they take hold, they can be challenging to get rid of.

What can I do to avoid marks and sores?

There are a number of steps to avoid rub marks and sores:

equus bullet Pay careful attention to the choice and fit of rug. If it’s not right for your horse, change it as soon as you can

equus bullet Look out for additional features in a rug that will reduce the possibility of rubbing, such as shoulder gussets, deep necklines etc

equus bullet Ensure that your horse’s skin is not allergic to the type of material from which the rug is made

equus bullet Get a bib to go under heavier rugs to provide an extra layer of padding

Weatherbeeta Deluxe Shoulder Guard Weatherbeeta Stretch Shoulder Guard

equus bullet Be vigilant with grooming to ensure no build-up of dead hair and skin in the fleece of the rug, as rug hygiene is imperative in the prevention of rug sores.

Getting a good match between your horse and its rug takes time and effort but will ensure that you won't have any problems. Read our blog with handy hints and tips for finding the correct size rug for your horse.

Shop Stretch Hoods and Shoulder Guards


Kim Horton

Co-Founder of EQUUS and a keen equestrian, when Kim's not at her desk she's with her horse, Waldo.


  • Julia Snook posted on December 17 2019 at 01:12 PM

    My best tip to avoid rubs and sores, is buy a Horseware Amigo or if you can afford it, a Rambo! They maybe more expensive than some of the other rugs but the peace of mind and fact that they last for years and years, makes them very economical in the long run. I have a chunky cob plus a fine Arab and Arab/Thoroughbred and these rugs fit them perfectly and stand up to their rough play and our clay!

  • Lauren Persey posted on May 20 2020 at 12:05 PM

    Hi this is Lauren
    My horses rug has rubbed half her mane away
    So how do I measure her probably for a rug

  • Grace Dear posted on October 23 2020 at 02:10 PM

    I’m wondering if you can help me or have any suggestions of what rug would be best for my horse. I’m having a big problem with my rugs rubbing away hair between my horse’s withers and crest. I’ve spent the whole summer trying to grow the hair back but unfortunately its not fully grown back and I am worried when he is clipped and wearing a rug again it will rub away and get sore again.Should I be looking for a high withered rug maybe? or something to reduce pressure? Any advice would be greatly appreciated :)


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