The last horse I had at home with me before Tiny appeared in my life this past autumn, was in October 2006. Whilst I’ve owned horses since 2006, they’ve mostly been youngstock who were kept away from me on the stud where they were bred. They were never any closer than an hour from where I lived and frequently beyond 2-3 hours. As such I really saw each of them as I owned them just a few times a year. It was much like having kids at boarding school really I suppose… not that I’ve got any of those either!
As a consequence my time with them wasn’t massively hands on. Before I bought Tiny I had been riding, reasonably regularly, again for a few months. I’d already noticed that many of the items I would generally have seen in my own tack area were looking a bit different. However it wasn’t until the ‘Duke of Orangeness’ came into my life with not much more than a borrowed rug or two that I realised JUST how much things had developed when I went on a shopping spree to kit him out.
As part of my Back in the Saddle series I’m going to look at a few areas where this has really hit home.
The first is with rugs.
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Now I’m putting my hands up here straight away, let’s make this a confession. I was always a bit of a hoarder of rugs. The romance behind sending a horse out to graze equipped to deal with the dear old British weather or to leave him snug in his stable at night was totally aimed at me. I wasn’t really one of those girls into the whole Matchy Matchy scene though, but I did love a rug (or 6) hanging up. However, those were the days when a really good turnout rug was about £80-100 and I pretty much always bought during sales or at shows when a ‘bargain’ was to be found. I added as I went. I never once needed everything all at once.
On my first rug buying expedition the first thing I noticed, bearing in mind it was early October, a time when saddlery’s should have been swarming with the new seasons rugs, I discovered that 6’3″ options were like gold dust. I’d managed to purchase a horse in the worlds most popular rug size…! I had a ton of choice in 6’0″ or 6’6″ but little to none in 6’3″. Somewhat frustrating and from an ex retailers perspective it was a surprise too, based purely on supply and demand etc…
Sadly though 6’6″ was simply too big, I’d been borrowing that size from Tony’s stash but each morning Tiny clearly wasn’t comfortable, or things had slipped.
The next issue I came across was I didn’t recognise some of the brands. I knew from the past which ones I preferred based on how they fit and prior experience, but these new ones, well, it was all Greek to me. So, for better or worse I decided to stick with a brand I knew and trusted. I could be missing out on a trick I know, but I played it safe. That made the size issue compound further though really. I stuck at it though and scoured the internet. I tried my local store first because it’s my preference to put the money in the pocket of the independent retailer than the bigger boys. However they just couldn’t get what I wanted so I had to hunt and track down these hen’s teeth.
Oh god how things have changed. My first ponies had proper New Zealand rugs. The heavyweight canvas things that took weeks to dry, had a felt lining to them, leather leg straps, one breast buckle and a surcingle round the middle. You used to dread the wet muddy months because to hoist those things on and off your ponies backs you needed muscles like a boxer. Stable rugs weren’t much better. The quilted ones had just about made it into production when I was about 16, but we did still have Jute rugs and rollers on standby too in case these new fangled things were rubbish. If anyone reading this has no clue about the original New Zealands or what a Jute rug is, google them….
Then laugh, once you’ve picked your chin off the floor.
12 years ago the technology was clearly much better than those teenage pony days, but it’s still come on in leaps and bounds again. The breathability is fantastic – I’ve not yet had a sweaty horse in the field or stable. The waterproof ratings just continue to get better and they dry well too. My Mark Todd turnouts have a shiny inner to the neck area reducing mane loss issues hugely, which was always a bug bear of mine. Belly straps now go through funky side guards so the hem of the rug hangs freely and the rugs just don’t move. Tiny is a big roller, man does that ginger boy love to come in at night decorated. Whilst I generally sigh at his artistic mud mask, I’m always amazed that the rugs don’t shift. These modern material are massively deceiving too as they look a bit flimsy, but the reality (at least for me) is the seem much more resistant to tears…
(Cue the first one of those to appear now I’ve declared this publicly!).
Stable rugs are much nicer too. The Weatherbeeta offers a side padded area to the withers, a really nice comfort touch. There’s now tail flaps on many too, which just seems add to their evening snugness. I prefer the modern clip closures than buckles, so it’s nice to have these on both stable and turnout rugs and I actively have chosen those where I can once I discovered them. Simple things like the addition of velcro patches by the clip fasteners give that bit extra of closing too. The materials are super clever, using a thermal reflection process that helps to prevent heat loss but still allowing excess moisture to escape.
All in all I’ve really been pleasantly surprised by the rugs now. I was a fan of Mark Todd rugs before, now I’m a massive fan. I just love the way they fit and they are really reasonably priced as their top rated rugs are not much over £140. Not bad when many of the rugs I was looking at were approaching £300. Now I’m sure those rugs do a fabulous job too, but when you need a full wardrobe for a naked ginger thoroughbred, you need to consider your bank balance and choose wisely!!
One thing is very much in the favour of modern rugs… life is much easier in the muscle department!
The only issue remains my height and throwing them across the back of something Hugo sized, or indeed hanging them on our wall mounted rug rail!
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Until next time…