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Fitting FAQ - Belly Surcingles

While the decision to use surcingles or not is often hotly debated, if your horse rug has them it is important to fit them correctly to reduce the chance of the horse getting caught up and potentially injuring himself.   

You may also find some of our other guides in this series helpful :-
Horse rug size guide (everything you need to know)
A guide to fitting horse rugs (identifying which issues cause which symptoms)
Fitting hoods & masks (what you need to know to keep your horse safe)
Horse rug care (avoid these common mistakes)

What do surcingles do on a horse rug?

As more horses are rugged almost full time it has become necessary to minimise excessive movement of a rug on a horse.  Ideally a well fitted rug should move with a horse, allowing him comfort and freedom to move without restriction.  When fitted properly belly surcingles help prevent the rug from twisting to one side or the other.  They also serve to prevent the sides of a rug billowing in the wind.  Conversely, on cool rugs such as a flag, we do not use surcingles as the fluttering skirt of the rug allows extra breeze to get to the underside of the horse.

Fitting Belly Surcingles corretly:

Straps should be crossed from the front of the off-side to the rear of the near-side and from the rear of the off-side to the front of the near-side.   
Use the sliding adjustment bars to make the straps longer or shorter as needed.  
The straps should be even and of a length that will create an even cross or 'x' in the centre of the horse's belly.
The cross over should hang no more than a hands width from the horse.       

Belly Surcingles - Just Right:

Belly Surcingles Done Just Right
Surcingles done up 'just right'! :)

Belly Surcingles Done Just Right
There should be about 1 hands width between the surcingles and horses belly.

Belly Surcingles Incorrect:

If the straps are not crossed to the opposing position as described they will be of little benefit at all.    

Incorrect Crossing
Surcingles - how not to do them up - they must be crossed!

Incorrect Crossing
This won't help to keep the rug in place.

Belly Surcingles - Too Tight:

Belly surcingles should be loose enough to allow the belly to move and expand comfortably with movement. Imagine how uncomfortable you would be laying down with a tight belt around your belly!

Correct Crossing - too tight
Surcingles down up correctly - but too tight.

Correct Crossing - too tight
Surcingles that are too tight will restrict movement and cause rub.

Belly Surcingles - Too Loose:

If the straps hang lower than than a hands width there is an increased risk of getting a hoof caught when laying down or rolling.  The rug is also more likely to move.

Correct Crossing - too loose
Surcingles crossed correctly - but left too loose


Size does matter:

If a rug is too big on a horse the rug will slip back placing the surcingles too close to the hind legs. This increases the chance of accidents and injury. 


If you are fitting a turnout rug over an under rug with belly surcingles take the time to check that the outer rug surcingles are fitted properly. Then if necessary adjust the straps of the under rug to ensure the straps do not hang lower than the outer rug straps. 

By taking a few extra minutes when you first use a rug with belly surcingles to get the fit right you can alleviate a lot of problems, repairs and heart ache. It also pays to check the surcingles from time to time ensuring they have not slipped or sustained any damage through use.    Ultimately a well fitted rug with properly adjusted belly surcingles will help your horse wear his rug comfortably for a long time to come.

Guide to correct horse rug fit

We have devoted an entire page to common fitting mistakes we see with horse rugs/sizing - see our detailed article here

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 too 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 effected. 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 supervised at all times.

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.