One thing that can be taken for granted, or even be a bit confusing at times, is the type of fabric that your covers are made with.
In the past, almost all horse covers were made from waterproofed canvas. However this was a heavy and difficult material to work with…it took heavy duty specialised sewing equipment to manufacture, and was quite stiff and heavy. Needless to say, it was not likely to have been pleasant for the horse to wear. Canvas waterproofing was also a bit of a lottery for the unwary buyer, as the waterproofing technique could vary from a simple wax coating to full immersion-forced treatment. Regardless of the method though, canvas was never an ideal material for prolonged exposure to rain and was better described as ‘shower-proof’ than ‘waterproof’. You can still get canvas rugs, but they are not commonly found any more.
Nowadays we have a huge range of synthetic materials to make horse covers from, ranging from sheer, smooth nylon linings that impart a shine to the coat to the heavy duty woven outers that offer protection, durability and light weight. Unfortunately, with the convenience of synthetic fabric manufacturing, we also find that there is an almost endless variety of weaves, weights and colours to have to get your head around. Luckily, with many decades of experience under our belts, we are able to help you cut through it all and offer our opinion on what we think is the best all-round set of materials to choose for your horse covers.
All of our summer, mid-weight and winter covers are made with the same outer material, that being 1200dn Oxford Ripstop weave. We also use this on our stable rugs (doonas) as we find that this is just as effective as a smooth quilted material, but much less prone to rips and tears.
We chose the Oxford weave because it is well renowned as being particularly strong, light and tear-resistant. The Oxford fabric is used for everything from shirts to tents to, yes, horse rugs. You can think of it as being like a basket weave, and the nature of the weave means that it is naturally resistant to tearing.
In addition to the outer fabric for the main set of rugs, we also have to consider what to use for lightweight unlined summer sheets. For these we use a ripstop cotton fabric…the reason for this is that these covers have a very specific purpose, and that is to provide a very lightweight cool sun and fly protection, mainly for clipped horses in the summer heat. The ripstop cotton again provides a very good compromise by being breathable, cool and extremely light, so the horse is much less likely to sweat and itch (and therefore roll in the dirt).
Then you have the weight, or density, of the material. This is measured in a unit known as Denier, which is a measure of the thickness of the threads used in the material. To be really technical, the Denier rating of a fabric is the weight, in grams, of 9 kilometers of a single thread of that material. So the higher the Denier, the thicker the thread and the coarser and stronger the fabric will be. Conversely, the lower the Denier, the thinner and more sheer the fabric.
For horse covers, you will see these commonly advertised as 600, 1200 or even 1680 denier. We use 1200 denier fabric on all of our covers and stable rugs because in our experience we have found that this weight offers the best compromise between durability and pliability. The 16800 denier fabrics, while strong, are quite stiff, thick and heavy and do not offer much in the way of advantages over 1200. Similarly we have found that 600 denier fabrics, while a little lighter, are very prone to tear and hole easily. In fact, almost all of the covers that we get in for repair are 600 denier (or if stronger fabrics, have been worn by rambunctious stallions who could even wreck steel body armour)!
Ultimately you get what you pay for…if you want to buy a cheap mass-produced horse cover with a lightweight 600 denier outer fabric, then you will need to be prepared for it to have a much shorter usable life and far less waterproofing capability than the stronger, more durable 1200 denier covers. For our designer covers, we have decided to use 1200 denier Oxford weave as our exclusive material of choice from a standpoint of exhaustive research and hard-won experience.
Hopefully this has been informative, and we will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have on the subject…just add a comment below, send us an email, or give us a call.