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Fitting FAQ - Avoid Rubbing

You may also find some of our other guides in this series helpful :-
Horse rug size guide (everything you need to know)
Fitting hoods & masks (what you need to know to keep your horse safe)
How to adjust belly surcingles (step by step guide)
Understanding waterproofing (how to check and keep your rugs waterproof)
Horse rug care (avoid these common mistakes)

Please follow the attached link for our range of Bibs & Shoulder Guards.

Avoiding Horse Rug Rub Marks:

It is very common to see rub marks on horses who otherwise would never never get them, from late January to early March, this is when horses grow out their summer coat (which is very thin) with a thicker winter coat, during this time a horse coat is more susceptible to rub. Especially when combined with humid/wet weather than increases friction from rugs.

A good fit will reduce the likely hood of your horse developing rub marks from pressure points from a rug. We design our rugs in such away to ensure that pressure on the chest and shoulders is kept to a minimum. We also incorporate anti-rub linings in our rugs. Keep in mind that some rugs are heavier than others (like Fly mesh or Turnout Rugs) and these will apply more weight to pressure points. Rub Marks are caused from a combination of :

  • Most often the rug sizing being used is incorrect, or the horses has features which make them more susceptible to pressure point marks (i.e. high wither, very lean build etc). If a rug is to small you generally see rub marks on the shoulders, if its too big you tend to get rubbing more on the front chest area as the rug slides back over the wither..
  • Late January to early March - horses grow out there summer coat with a thicker winter coat, during this time a horse coat is more susceptible to rub.
  • Wearing rugs for extended periods (i.e.: over winter) will eventually have an impact on pressure points and bibs are advisable
  • Some horses have more sensitive coats and will be fine in lighter rugs (like ripstop cotton ) but may have issues in fly mesh or turnout combos which are heavier. Fine coats and are more susceptible to rubbing and may need a bib under heavier rugs to provide an extra layer of padding.

With some horse's you just cant pick why a particular rug will cause an issue. Just like people, the same size shirt will fit 10 different people in the same size differently. Horses are no different and have their own different shapes, features and postures and movements. Getting a good match between horse and rug size will ensure that you won't have any problems. If your horse has rub marks - something is usually wrong with the rug sizing you have chosen or your horse has features outside the 'norm'. Rub marks can be caused by a wide variety of issues out of our control. Some horses may need a bib to help alleviate. 

Common Fit & Rub Issues.

Caribu Fitting Guide

The above example shows the start of a rub mark on the shoulder from a rug that has been too big and slipping behind the wither. The image below shows what can happen in just a few days if the rug is to large and slipping over the whither which causes the rug to pull up in the chest area.

Caribu Fitting Guide

The most common fitting problem we see, is horse rugs that are too big for the horse. (or rugs that have a very deep cut neckline). The rug should sit nice and high on the neckline, up past the wither at the base of the neck. This will ensure that the rug doesn't slip back behind the wither. Some rug brands may have a very deep cut neckline (i.e. large deep neck curve). These can be very good on stocky horses (i.e.: Quarter Horses etc) but will create all sorts of issues on horses that aren't extremely broad in the shoulders.

Caribu Fitting Guide

^ The rug above is sitting too far back behind the wither.

Caribu Fitting Guide

^ The rug above will slip back behind the wither and pull up higher on the chest under the neck. This will create rub marks on the chest and shoulders.

Caribu Fitting Guide

^ The Rug above shows the correct fit, nice and high up the neckline and over the wither.

Horse Rug Chest Straps.

Both the upper and lower chest straps should be on the same buckle hole, ideally the first (tightest) or second buckle hole.

Caribu Fitting Guide

^ The rug above is either too small, or hasn't been pulled far enough forward up the neckline and over the horses wither.

Caribu Fitting Guide

^ The rug above is either too small, or hasn't been pulled far enough forward up the neckline and over the horses wither.

Caribu Fitting Guide

^ The rug above is a turnout waterproof combo. In this case the rug is the correct fit - but is sitting way too far to the rear - it needs to be pulled well forward and done up so that there is ample over lap of the front edges of the horse rug. (1st or 2nd buckle hole).

Caribu Fitting Guide

^ The rug above shows an ideal fit. Both Chest straps done up evenly.

Tail End - getting the correct fit.

We often see rugs that hang way too far over the rear end of the horse. The argument being that people want to make sure the horse isn't bothered with flies. Unfortunately going for a rug one size bigger to get extra length will give you a longer rug, but keep in mind that all the other dimensions on the rug increase as well. All Caribu Horse Rugs come standard with Tent Tail flaps, there is no need to have an over size rug.

Caribu Fitting Guide

.Caribu Fitting Guide

Caribu Fitting Guide


There are lots of arguments for and against gussets. A rug with a well positioned gusset will help prevent shoulder rub issues, ensure a better fit and increased comfort for your horse. (especially when rugs have belly surcingles). However we see far too many rugs with a gussets poorly positioned, generally too far forward, or with insufficient depth. These will create a whole new array of fitting issues.

Caribu Fitting Guide

^ If your rug has belly surcingles, gussets play a very important role in allowing the fabric to mould around the shoulder and allow the rug to tuck up under the belly behind the surcingle straps. Without gussets you are placing a lot more pressure on the chest and shoulders.

Adjusting Belly Surcingles

We have devoted an entire page to Belly surcingle adjustment - see our article here

How should my Horse Rug fit?

Getting a good match between your horse and a suitable horse rug size, will go along way to extending the life and comfort of your rugs? Hopefully this page will give you a few pointers on how a rug should fit when used on your horse.

Be sure to also read our detailed Horse Rug Size Guide, to learn how to measure your horse for our rugs and more detailed information on Caribu Rug sizing.

Fitting a Horse Rug - the basics:

There are a few common rules to follow to check the fit:
  • Put the rug on the horse, the rug should sit forward and in front of the wither.  The top chest buckle should be fastened to the 1st (tightest) or 2nd hole.  If you are using the third hole or more, it may suggest the horse may need a larger rug size.
  • The rug should sit firmly around the neckline and chest. 
  • Leg straps should be loose enough to prevent chafing - but not hanging down low.
  • Surcingles should be adjusted so that cross in the center of the belly and allow a hand's width between straps and belly.
  • Rugs that are too big for a horse tend to create more problems from rubbing etc than rugs that are too small. If a rug is too big in the neck area, the rugs slip back over the wither and puts pressure on the chest. This will cause more fabric to hang over the rear end of the horse and you will have issues with slippage and horses getting caught in surcingles and stepping on their rugs when getting up or rolling.
  • The seam where the tail flap attaches to the rug should sit on top of the tail. If it sits beyond the tail, the rug is too big, if it sits up in front of the tail, the rug is too small.

Adjusting Hoods

We have a detailed guide devoted to the use and adjustment of hoods and masks. Please read our Horse Hood & Mask Fitting Guide here.

Sizing Issues

Because we use standard Australian sizing for our rugs, it makes it much easier for sizing and comparison. We also understand that while horse rug sizes are standard - horses aren't! They come in all shapes and sizes. Our rugs are designed to fit the majority of horses, the majority of the time. Like people, there will always be horses that have shapes that don't confirm to the norm, and sometimes a custom made rug is the best option. If you do have a fitting issue its usually due to having the wrong size rug for your horse rather than an issue with the rug itself.

Some issues that affect sizing decisions:

  • Many imported rugs (including some big name brands) used to make rugs especially for the Australian market and sizing. However in recent years they now manufacture one rug for distribution in all markets - Europe, UK, US and Australia. (Often based on European designs) Each region measures their rugs differently (i.e.: Europe measure from wither to tail along the top edge of the rug). Unfortunately the sizing's don't slot in neatly with Australian sizing - so its not unusual to have one of these rugs that can be out by almost a whole sizing - i.e.: a rug labeled as a 6'0, but when you measure them they can be closer to 6'3 or even 5'9.

  • Necklines are often very deep cut (or poorly designed!) on the cheaper imported rugs and this has the effect of making the rug a much bigger fit compared to better fitting brands in the same size.

  • Winter turnout rugs which are usually lined, filled or padded are often a tighter fit, when compared to normal summer ripstop rugs or sheets. This is due to the fact that the padding takes up additional space. Also keep in mind, that if you use a summer sheet, wool, fleece or similar rug under your winter rug to create layers - this adds more padding again and has the potential to create a tighter fit again. If your horse is normally borderline between sizes in a normal summer rug, this may mean the difference between going up or down a size.

  • Young horses often have underdeveloped chests, which can make them a challenge to rug. Often a dart in the shoulder line can take up the slack and be taken out when the horse fills out.

We suggest if you are not confident with sizing, to put a sheet over your horse when trying your new rug on for the first time, to keep hair and dirt off the rug.

Read our detailed size guide here.

Avoid damage to your rug or horse:

A good match between your horse and your new rug will ensure you have few problems. A poor fitting rug, due to incorrect sizing for your horse, will accelerate the likely damage to a horse rug. Horse rugs are usually damaged by:
  • Having your horse in a rug a size too small, resulting in excessive pressure on chest buckles and the wither area and/or
  • Having your horse in rug that is too large, resulting in a rug that slips easily on your horse and/or
  • Having Leg straps fitted too loosely, and the horses rug slips, allowing the horse to either step through the leg strap or catch a hoof on the strap - which results in the strap being pulled off.
  • Loose Belly Surcingles, which allows the horse to get his legs caught in a strap when running or rolling.
  • Any of the above issues are exaggerated when your horses rolls or canters.

Horses Safety

We also ask you to consider if the items purchased will suit the nature of your horse environment you plan on using them in. If you have any doubt about the quality or the suitability of the products you have purchased to match the horse and environment you plan on using them in, contact us immediately to arrange a return. When you fit the rug or product for the first time, if you have any doubt about the fit, sizing, quality or its suitability for the task you have intended - please contact us to arrange an exchange or return the item. Remove the item from your horse immediately before it gets dirty. If you are unsure of the fitting of a horse rug or how to use a particular item - please contact us for clarification before using the product. We are only to happy to assist.

**Horses are unpredictable animals and there is always a risk of a horse dislodging rugs, hoods, fly masks etc from scratching, snagging or other mischief and then panicking if their vision is affected. When using hoods or masks on your horse you need to consider the horses temperament, location to other horses, environment and their overall suitability for wearing these types of products. We recommend only using masks, hoods or other items that may interfere with a horses vision in safe environments where the horse can be regularly supervised at all times.

We have a detailed guide on using and adjusting hoods and masks here.

Caribu Horse Wear accepts no liability for loss, damage, injury or death or consequential loss to any person or animal resulting from the use or misuse, or incorrect fitting or failure of any of our products.