How to put on a horse’s rug

How to put on a horse's rug

Putting on a horse’s rug is easy…if you know what you’re doing but if you don’t know or if you just want to check if what you're doing is right, here are a few pointers from Kim...

  • Put a head collar on and tie up your horse securely
  • Check that the front straps or buckles are undone and that the leg straps are secured back to themselves so that they don’t swing round and hit the horse’s legs or belly
  • Gently place the rug on his back. Horses that are used to rugs, are not frightened when the rug is thrown up and over their back but this may not so with a young or difficult horse especially if it’s for the first time. So, go slowly just in case!
  • Position the rug so that it sits forward, in front of the wither.
  • Fasten the chest straps. The top chest strap should be fastened to the first or second hole. If you are using the third hole or more, it may suggest the horse may need a larger rug size.
  • Check the fit at the front by sliding your hand down inside the neck of the rug once it’s fastened.
  • Adjust the surcingle straps that go under his belly. Use the sliding adjustment bars on the surcingle straps to make them longer or shorter as needed. They should be an even length and should create an even cross or 'x' in the centre of the horse's belly.
  • Check the fit of the surcingle straps. There should be hand's width between the straps and belly.
  • Fasten the leg straps if the rug has them: pass the left-hand strap around the left hind leg and fasten it back on itself on the left side. Then pass the right hand one around the right hind leg, loop it through the left strap, and fasten it back on itself on the right-hand side.
  • Check the fit of the leg straps. Once again there should be hand's width between the leg straps and the horse’s thigh to allow for movement.
  • Stand away from your horse once you think you’ve finished just to check that everything is done up that should be done up and everything's in the right place.
  • Give your horse an encouraging pat to say well done and thank you for standing nicely!

Putting a rug on correctly will go a long way to extending the life of the rug as well as the comfort for your horse.

Over to you!

Have I missed anything? Do you have any tips that work well for you? Help a fellow equestrian - share them in the comments below!

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Kim Horton

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


  • Leticia Pritchard posted on July 21 2019 at 10:07 AM

    This guide is completely wrong and does not consider the horses safety should something spook it. You should always fasten the leg straps first and cross them. This ensures that if there is an issue with the horse spooking, the rug will come off without causing harm to the horse. If you do the chest strap first, and the horse spooks there will be a high risk of the rug falling in front of the horse resulting in potential injury.

  • David posted on October 06 2019 at 02:10 PM

    Always leg straps first, then chest straps (then neck straps if applicable) and lastly surcingles if they are fitted. Taking the rug off is the reverse. I’ve had friends who have gone the opposite way and have a horse spook and run off with the chest straps only still fastened only to have the horse trip over the rug and kill itself. If the chest straps are undone and the horse takes off then it has the chance to fall off the back and the horse slip the back legs through without such a calamity.

  • yasmin crockett posted on June 01 2021 at 08:06 AM

    David have you seen a horse bolt with leg straps only done up with rug dragging behind , horse looking back and through a fence ??? Happened too many times at studs I have heard ! Chest strap first at ALL times . Horse will
    Step on it and more than likely stop or trip which is much safer than blind bolting through a fence as something is dragging behind!!


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