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What's the benefit of using an Exercise Sheet?

Posted on 23 February 2017 by Kim

Benefits of equestrian exercise sheets

What is an exercise sheet?

An Exercise Rug or Sheet is designed specifically to be worn whilst exercising a horse when protection from the cold and the rain is required.

Why do I need one?

You need to use an Exercise Sheet if your horse is fully clipped, thin skinned, suffers from the cold or you simply want to keep him dry when it rains. Normal rugs cannot be used as they’re not designed to be worn when riding as they hang too low, slip down and cause problems.

What are the benefits?

Warmth: Arguably the most important benefit. They provide warmth across the back, loins, croup and essential organs such as the kidneys. Warmth is essential for muscle suppleness.

They're of great benefit when warming up for a schooling session or a competition to help engage the muscles in the back and hindquarters. Remove it when you think your horse is warm enough to prevent him from sweating. Put it back on when you cool down to prevent your horse’s muscles cooling too quickly, which can cause chills and cramping.

Exercise sheets are commonly used whilst hacking out, to keep the horse’s muscles warm during slower hacks in the Autumn and Winter, which is particularly important for horses that are clipped. 

In addition horses that suffer from Azoturia can benefit from wearing exercise sheets.

Waterproof: The benefit of a waterproof exercise rug is that it keeps your horse from getting wet but more importantly, it prevents him from getting cold from the wet. Often exercise sheets that are waterproof, are usually windproof as well.

Be Seen: Many Exercise Sheets contain "reflective strips" which are practical for misty winter riding. However for hacking out on the road, your horse really need a proper Hi Viz Exercise Sheet. 

What other features should I look out for?

Thicker Exercise Sheets need to be made of a breathable material to prevent the sweat from becoming trapped between the horse’s skin and the exercise sheet. If this happens, the horse can become cold very quickly when it dries.

What size do I need?

When confronted with the sizes of exercise rugs, they can be a little puzzling unless you know the standard rug sizes they relate to. The handy table below shows the size that you need for your horse. 

Normal Rug Size

Exercise Rug Size


168 cms


122 cms


176 cms


130 cms


183 cms


138 cms


191 cms


138 cms


199 cms


138 cms


206 cms


145 cms


214 cms


153 cms


How will I know which one to buy?

There is an exercise sheet to suit every type of horse and rider. It’s important purchase, so before you buy one, think about what and when you’ll be using it for most.

If you ride mostly in an indoor school or in an outdoor school on dry days, a fleece exercise sheet will keep your horse warm and it will wick away any moisture if he sweats. The Shires Wessex Fleece Exercise Sheet below on the left, is sound favourite that has an instantly recognizable appearance! If you're looking for real warmth, this look-a-like thermatex rug from Weatherbeeta is a more conservative option. 

Shires Wessex Fleece Exercise Sheet     Weatherbeeta Thermic Exercise Sheet

If you ride mostly outdoors and your horse suffers from the cold on slower hacks or warming up/cooling down outside when it’s really cold, some exercise sheets combine a warm fleece lining with a waterproof outer. This fleece lined one from Mark Todd is waterproof as well. It's worth mentioning that some waterproof exercise sheets can rustle slightly with movement which can be a consideration for sensitive horses.

Mark Todd Waterproof Exercise Sheet

If you hack out regularly and have to go on the roads or lanes, a High Viz Rug is highly recommended. Any road user will be able to see your horse from a distance and from 360 degrees which is obviously highly essential for ultimate safety. The Equisafety Mercury Rug is the absolute latest advance in technology. Made from billions of tiny reflective balls which catch the light and make the rug positively glow, even in the poorest of visibility.

Equisafety Mercury Rug

It's important to choose an exercise sheet which suits you as well as your horse. Not only are there Exercise Sheets designed with the horse in mind, there's also a few that provide some cover for the rider’s leg. So if you suffer from the cold, the HKM Fleece Exercise Sheet may be the one for you.

HKM Fleece Exercise Sheet

For those lucky owners that have a horse walker to exercise their horse or for those that often lunge their horses in the cooler temperatures, it is possible to get a rug that is cut away at the shoulder to allow for freedom of movement. Great for that all-important ground work. The Mark Todd Walker Rug is a personal favourite of mine.

Mark Todd Horse Walker/Lunge Rug

Buy exercise sheets online


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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