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How to avoid rug marks and sores

Posted on 12 September 2017 by Kim

How to avoid rug marks and sores on your horse

The rug season for many has arrived or is just about to for many others. So, before the season gets well underway, find out how to avoid rub marks and sores that can be very uncomfortable on your horse’s skin.

How are rug marks and sores caused?

A good fitting rug will reduce the likely hood 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:

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

Shoulder rub from horse's rug    Rug indentation from horse's rug

Where do marks and sores occur?

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

  • Wither
  • Base of the neck
  • Shoulder
  • Chest
  • Inside of the thigh
  • 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:

Area Symptom Cause and treatment
Wither Soreness in the wither area The rug is too tight around the neck. Look for a rug brand with a deep cut neckline.
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”.
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. The rug is too small 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 as 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 in to 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:

  • 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
  • Look out for additional features in a rug that will reduce the possibility of rubbing, such as shoulder gussets, deep necklines etc.
  • Ensure that your horse’s skin is not allergic to the type of material from which the rug is made.
  • Get a bib to go under heavier rugs to provide an extra layer of padding

Shires Satin Anti-Rub Bib   Weatherbeeta Stretch Shoulder Guard

  • 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 horse and its rug takes time and effort but will ensure that you won't have any problems. Look out for next week’s blog that contains handy tips and advice about fitting rugs.

Temperature guide to rugging a horse

Author

Kim Horton

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

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