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How and Why to Use an Exercise Rug or a Quarter Rug

An exercise rug, also called a quarter sheet, is a great way to keep your horse comfortable when you’re riding in cold or inclement weather. They are especially appropriate to prevent chills in horses that are always clipped and blanketed. If you clip your horse in winter, using a quarter sheet or exercise rug may be a necessity.

Exercise rugs, (known as quarter sheets since they cover a horse’s hindquarters) are also called riding blankets because they’re worn during riding. They come in two basic types to serve different purposes:

One version is made of a waterproofed material, usually nylon, and shields a horse’s back and hindquarters during wet weather. The Amigo Competition Sheet is an example of this type, which is useful to have on hand for special events such as shows, parades and trail rides during which your horse may be exposed to the elements. It does not provide excessive warmth, but can make your horse more comfortable if you ride in inclement weather.

Another version is made of either a synthetic fleece fabric or traditional wool. This type keeps a horse’s back and hind end warm during cold weather workouts. It can be used throughout a ride depending on a combination of the horse’s physical condition, whether he is clipped, how hard he is working, and the temperature. It can also be used just for the warm-up phase of a workout and then replaced at the end of a ride to prevent hot muscles from getting chilled.

Exercise rugs vary slightly in style. Some are designed to be placed over the saddle pad but under the saddle; these remain in place during the cold-weather ride. Other versions have hook and loop closures at the front that enable the rider to easily remove the rug after warm-up and then replace it after the workout for the cool-down phase. Some have cutout designs for the rider’s seat, or can be worn over the rider’s thigh as well as the horse’s hindquarters. Exercise rugs come in a variety of colors and can be custom made.

Sizing Quarter Sheets

Manufacturers vary in their sizing for quarter sheets. You will find some that offer one-size-fits-all solutions, such as the Rider's by Dover Saddlery Fleece Exercise Rug. This sizing is generally appropriate for horses that require a 76, 78, 80 or 82 size blanket but may be too large for smaller horses. You can order a custom exercise rug according to a pair of standard blanket sizes, such as 74/76 or 78/80. These are crafted of quality wool offered in a range of colors that you can pair with your choice of trim color and style of tail cord. Still other manufacturers offer exercise rugs in small, medium and large cuts with standard blanket size ranges falling into the three sizing categories. The Rambo Newmarket Quarter Sheet is offered with this type of sizing.

When sizing an exercise rug, you need to make sure it is roomy enough to accommodate a horse’s natural movement. Conversely, it should not be so large as to allow it to shift or have dangling fabric that could become caught on an object.

Related Articles:
How to Measure Your Horse for a Blanket
About Blanketing and Horse Clothing
Tips for Fitting Blankets or Sheets
About Horse Body Clipping