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Paddock Ripstop Horse Rugs - What makes a good horse rug last?

Paddock Ripstop Horse Rugs - What makes a good horse rug last?
Category: Horse Talk Knowledge Base
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Cotton is often desirable in horse rugs - but are you being mislead? A lot has changed over the last 10 years and you will be hard pushed to find a 100% cotton rip-stop horse rug.

Why do some ripstop horse rugs wear better than others? Cotton or Polyester?

To the majority of us, one ripstop fabric looks very much like the next. Yet some horse rugs perform better on our horses with a longer life than others - so what's the difference?

While many ripstop fabrics may look the same - they can wear very differently. There are 3 major considerations with ripstop fabric for a horse rug- the actual fabric blend used, the type of loom the fabric has been made on, fabric weight and weave. Lets look at each factor.

Horse Rugs & Fabric Blends.

We often get requests for 100% cotton ripstop paddock horse rugs, especially from those who have just gotten back into horses after a long break. Those of us with a few years under our belts, will remember when horse rugs were generally 100% cotton, and we will also likely recall how terrible the first polyester horse rugs performed. (very hot) . This created a belief for many of us that cotton is King. A lot has changed over the last 10 years and you will be hard pushed to find a 100% cotton rip-stop horse rug.

100% cotton rip-stop rugs haven't been around for a long time. Still many retailers promote them as ‘cotton’, knowing full well they are not – some manufacturers even go as far as to use deceptive commerce labels for fabric descriptions on their rugs. In days gone by, 100% cotton horse rugs were not uncommon, cotton was cheap and the rugs were made from a thicker weave - and if you recall they also shrunk or lost their shape easily and didn't wear so well. Other deceptive advertising you may see is rugs advertised as "60% Ripstop" - what we have seen in some cases is the ripstop thread is 60% cotton - but the base fabric is 100% Polyester!

Over the last decade there has been huge leaps and bounds in fabric production technologies and new generation Ripstops in polyester resemble cotton in just about every aspect. The majority of rip-stop fabrics are now either 100% polyester (but look and feel like cotton) or will be a blend of cotton and polyester. Given the huge increase in raw cotton since 2010 - many manufacturers now use 100% polyester.

Cotton is naturally weaker than polyester and needs a blend to give it strength and durability.(when used in a horse rug!) Cotton does offer better breathability compared to polyester, but this gap has narrowed significantly in just the last few years. At Caribu we use approx a 70/30 blend in our rugs. 70% Polyester to 30% Cotton. If we use a higher cotton ratio - rugs start to lose strength and lose shape. More than 70% polyester, and the rugs start to lose breathability. Most horses wont appreciate a 100% polyester rug on a summers day!

Fabric Looms.

Fabric composition is just one part in the puzzle of getting a good, long wearing fabric. The majority of paddock ripstop horse rug fabric is produced in India - as much as 90%. There can be a huge variance in the the types of looms used to produce the fabric - from low tech hand tensioned looms (still very common, cheaper fabric) to high end computerised tensioners. (We use computerised machinery.) On the older manual tensioned looms it requires an operator to keep monitoring and tensioning the fabric as it is being weaved. Fabric from these looms often will have loose threads of impurities in the weave (ie pulled threads etc). The automated looms are the newer computerized systems that create superior fabrics. Hand tensioned looms creates fabric that has a looser weave . When looking at fabric its easy to tell the sort of machine it has been created on. Grab some fabric in each hand between thumb and forefinger - see if you can part the fabric on one axis (i.e. separate the threads) On a hand loom, you can usually part one axis. On a modern loom both axis will be tight and unable to separate. Most 'cheap' ripstop rugs you you will come across, are using ripstop fabric woven on the older manually tensioned looms.

Which Fabric?
The type of loom a fabric is produced on can affect the fabric properties.

Horse Rug Fabric Weight & Weave.

The thickness or gsm (grams per square meter) weight of the fabric plays a huge part in performance. At Caribu we use a 300gsm fabric in our cotton horse rugs - which is strong - but still cool enough for our hot summers. With the increase in raw materials many have switched to using thinner fabrics - again they look similar and it takes a keen eye to detect the lighter fabric - but the difference will be very noticeable in wear when in use on your horse. Weave also plays an important role. A large square ripstop fabric wont be as a tight a weave as a small square ripstop. Likewise moving to a diamond weave offers superior performance again as you have a both a traditional square weave with a diagonal diamond weave ripstop on two diagonals.

A guide to fabric weights and suggested use in a cotton/polycotton paddock rug:

160gsm - 190gsm.
This is as about as light weight as you can go with a horse rug. Fabric of this weight usually used in very light summer rugs - traditionally flag. Lovely and cool - but not strong

200gsm - 270gsm.
This is the range that you will see many 'cheaper' ripstop fabrics appearing. Many big manufactures will do a 'budget' rug in this fabric. Price is right - but the life and durability of the fabric as a paddock rug will be disappointing.

280gsm - 310gsm.
This is the ideal range for a good quality long lasting Ripstop fabric that can be used in the hottest months. Strength is good and the rugs will hold their shape and stand up to the elements.

350gsm + .
At this weight you move into your stiffer canvas type fabrics.

As you can see many factors lead to delivering a quality ripstop fabric and they all come at a price.

Comments on Paddock Ripstop Horse Rugs - What makes a good horse rug last?

Caroline Trueger Friday, March 18, 2016 11:22 AM
I agree! Some fabrics you can pull the threads apart in your hands - now i know why.
Lynlea Thursday, November 12, 2015 03:12 PM
Great info. Thankyou
Fiona Friday, July 19, 2013 01:04 PM
Good information, thanks

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