Equestrian Central - Blog - Advice and Tips

How to fit my horse/pony rug

Below is for Weatherbeeta rugs

Getting the perfect fitting rug is vital to keep your horse comfortable, protected and performing at their best.

Step 1: First, lay your WeatherBeeta rug over your horse's back. If your horse has never worn a rug before you may need someone to help hold them while you make adjustments.

Step 2: Once you have ascertained that the rug fits well around the neck, slide the rug into position along your horse's back so that the coat lies flat. If the seam between the tail flap and the rug sit below the top of the tail, the rug may be too big.

Step 3: With rugs that feature leg straps, take the left leg strap, pass between the hind legs and fasten it on the left hand side.

Step 3a: Take the right leg strap, pass it between the hind legs and through the loop made by the left strap and fasten to the right hand side.

Step 3b: The leg straps are linked to prevent rubbing and act with each other to pull the rug into place. If you fit the rug well it will displace very little through movement and rolling. If the leg straps are too loose, the rug will slip.

Step 3c: Adjust the leg straps equally until there is room for the width of one hand (4-5") between the leg straps and the horse's thigh. This is to allow freedom of movement.

Step 4: Buckle the chest straps. It is essential that a rug should fit well on the withers & shoulders so that your horse can move freely undreneath the fabric without the rug slipping back. Adjust the buckles and ensure you can still slide your hand down the neck of the rug.

Step 5: When fitting a rug with cross surcingles care should be taken to ensure that the straps of the surcingle cross in the centre of the horse's belly - well forward of the horse's stifle. Again, there should be a hand's breadth between the straps and the horse's body.

What are Mycotoxins

Myco is the Greek term for fungus and toxins mean poison and are produced in various types of fungi. Some of these fungi live inside the plant and are called endophytes. Perennial rye-grass contains endophytes which produce two very harmful myco-toxins, namely lolitrem B and ergovaline. Annual rye-grass where as it doesn't contain the dangerous endophytes can have a highly poisonous bacteria form on the seed heads. 
A toxic bacterial gall is formed and some may exude a yellow slime. Both the endophyte and bacterial gall will still be present in hay even if it has been stored for years, annual rye grass is also a nitrate accumulator.

Paspalum in Australia and New Zealand can become a dominant grass in horse sick paddocks particularly during summer and autumn when most other grasses will have browned off. Paspalum contains high mycotoxin levels in the plant close to the ground and also has a highly toxic ergot that can form on the seed heads. Both Rye grass and Paspalum are known to cause the 'staggers' other wise known as the rye grass staggers or Paspalum staggers.

Until recently, we horse owners didn't take too much notice of fungi in our horses' environment, apart from knowing not to feed moldy hay or feed. Because they are usually invisible, and myco-toxins do not show up in blood tests, it has taken a while to make the connection between many health and behaviour problems in our horses and these insidious equine trouble-makers!! Some horse owners suspected a form of poisoning was occurring, having their soils tested for heavy metals and putting water filters on the troughs.

In 1985 the World Health Organization estimated that approximately 25% of the world's grains were contaminated by mycotoxins. This figure has most certainly grown since then due to an increase in global import and export of grains and cereals and the changing environmental and weather patterns.

Our climate, and the generally low pH of the soils, means the conditions are frequently very favorable to the explosive proliferation of fungal spores and myco-toxins. Particularly in tropical areas where moist warm conditions are paramount. If you happen to live anywhere near any orchards you will know how often they spray for fungi. You will have seen molds suddenly appear on horse manure from time to time or when the mushrooms appear in late autumn and early winter. Fungi love acidic conditions, so pasture fertilized with traditional super-phosphate makes an ideal environment for them.

The lifestyle of the typical horse means they spend most of the time out grazing the pasture. Consequently they are inevitably ingesting and inhaling vast numbers of fungal spores and myco-toxins 24/7. Not just at certain times of the year, but any time the conditions favour fungi!

Mycotoxins have also been directly linked to the extended gestation period for mares in foal as well as dystocia (difficulty birthing), lack of milk production, premature separation of the placenta and other placental irregularities. Weak or dead foals that may have suffered trauma or asphyxiation due to difficult birth or the foal may be weakened because of placental insufficiency.

It is no surprise that the results of the "Equine Health & Behaviour Survey" in New Zealand fit with this information. The horses with the most, and severest symptoms are invariably grazing the 'improved' pastures, especially the rye/clover mixes. Of these, most are also being fertilized with superphosphate.

However, there are some horses with severe symptoms that live on rye-grass pasture that hasn't been fertilized in 10 years, and some that graze 'low-endophyte' pasture and still show symptoms. Thousands of horses suffer for many months of the year, from an array of the symptoms. 

All of the 'severe' cases have exasperated owners who have spent many hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars investigating other possible causes. They have had numerous blood-tests(which time after time come up clean or show just mild anaemia), equine practitioners of all descriptions, multiple saddle fittings and sometimes up to three new saddles, horse dentists and hoof trimmers. Finally they hear about feeding the right vitamins and minerals and a toxin-binder (a completely natural food that locks on to toxins in the horses' intestine, prevents them from going through the intestine wall and into the bloodstream, and carries them out with the manure). Within days they are astounded at the difference in their horses!!

Due to the fact that there are hundreds of different myco-toxins lurking in and around all pasture types it is no surprise that the above scenario is very common. Feeding a toxin-binder is simple, comparatively inexpensive, and totally safe. If your horse has any of the symptoms mentioned below, it would seem logical to go down this avenue along with addressing mineral imbalances.



Signs of Mycotoxins

Signs of Myco-toxin Toxicity and/or Mineral Imbalances?

Because both these tend to happen unpredictably and simultaneously, especially coinciding with flushes of pasture growth, it can be difficult and fruitless to try and differentiate so it is best to address both issues regardless. Some mycotoxins have also been found to bind up nutrients such as magnesium.

Toxins are ones that have been ingested with pasture or feed
(They generally respond to a toxin-binder or removal from pasture)

Mineral imbalances are complex and it is important to consider the inter-relationship of them all. Excess of potassium and deficiency of the macro-minerals such as Calcium and Magnesium and sodium have very serious consequences. They require urgent attention in the short term in the form of appropriate supplementation. Horses kept on a dry lot or stabled will also require vitamin and mineral supplementation.

Meanwhile if your horse exhibits any of the following then it is highly likely he is 'affected' by his diet, in particular the grass he is eating.

Often starts with:

General 'tetchiness', an unwillingness to be touched, or tensing up and reacting when touched, especially around chest and thorax
Appears somewhat 'stiff', stepping short behind

This can then cause:

Cinchiness/girthiness, not standing for saddling/mounting
General crabbiness when ridden, pinning ears, swishing tail etc.
Tightness, tenseness, impulsiveness, wanting to run off
Can't use your legs, reaching around to bite the girth when ridden

Progresses to:

Touchy around ears, difficulty with bridling
Flings off suddenly when haltering
Sore across the loins
Uncharacteristic bucking when first moves off with girth tightened

Excessive aggressiveness towards you or other horses (viciously biting you, attacking, Hounding other horses, you think they're a 'rig')


Excessive herd bound behaviour (eg screaming maniac, irrationally attached to another horse)

Can exhibit both these previous two 'opposite' behaviours concurrently!! 
Bucking (quite violent and "out of the blue") 
Bolting off in short bursts 
'Nutty' or 'ballistic' behaviour


Excessive spookiness/alertness 
Shies away when approached, hard to catch 
'Spaced out', 'wired', 'not there', hallucinating 
Eyesight seems to be affected, can't judge jumps 
Overly claustrophobic, extremely sensitive to noise (reluctant to ride close to the arena wall, rushes off the float etc)


Heavy on the forehand, stumbling over nothing 
Standing 'base-wide' 
Difficulty backing up, out of floats etc 
Discomfort walking downhill 
Slightly drunk or 'zonked' looking 
Uncoordinated movement, staggering 
Giving out in the hind-quarters, laying down a lot in the paddock 
Dragging back feet, reluctant to go forward, 
Reluctant to canter, won't canter

Heat stress:

Instantly overheats when you put the rugs on 
Running madly around paddock for no reason (while other horses aren't) 
Slamming into fences/gates 
Excessive sweating, white sweats, smelly sweats, 
Sweating in unusual places, eg on top of rump, patches on upper neck 
General agitation 
Fence walking


Like a bug has flown up their nose, can be worse on sunny days 
head twitch


Jerky upward action of the hind limbs


When autopsy shows hind gut necrosis due to vaso-constriction of blood supply to the intestine


Raging seasons, not cycling properly 
Difficulty getting in foal 
Prolonged gestation 
Reduced milk production 
Weak suckling by foal


Chronic dull/rough coat 
Won't put on weight, looks wormy but not, no topline 
Bloated or 'potty' belly, looks fat but neck and rump are normal or thin 
Consistently small, frequent manure 
Lifeless eyes, dull, nobody home - glazed eyes 
No energy, lethargic 
Falling asleep on their feet (like narcolepsy)

Grasses that can harbour myco-toxins:

Perennial Rye Grass



Bermuda Grass (couch)

Make it your business to be able to recognize these grasses. When not in seed, the rye-grass is characterized by a narrow, dark green leaf, that is shiny on the back. Some species of paspalum have a purple tinge around the edge of the broad leaves.

Clover is 1/3 higher in sugar and starch than grass. All rye-grasses are high sugar grasses therefore even when they have had the endophytes removed as in low or zero-endophyte strains they are still not suitable for horses.


Toxin-Binders Explained

A toxin-binder helps to protect the horse from the toxins which can cause ill-health. It is NOT a cure. The yeast cell wall extract provides lots of 'sites' for toxins in the feed to latch onto and takes them out with the manure. Sometimes, when the climate favours proliferation of fungi, or grazing very short grass close to the roots, or when seed heads are present, the toxin-binder has its work cut out and you will need to up the dose, feed morning and night or completely remove the horse from pasture until the horse 'cleans out' and comes back to normal.

Horses do not become 'immune' to the toxin-binder because it does not enter their bloodstream.

Official Turnout Attire


Guidelines for Turnout Classes  

Before discussing ‘what is correct’ for turnout classes, it must be stressed that, while there are many hard and fast rules, there are still some contentious issues and points where it is simply a matter of personal opinion as to what is correct. The criteria stated below is aimed at top class competition (i.e. Perth Royal Show, Horse of the Year) and therefore judges officiating where the standard falls short of this level, must decide for themselves the ‘lesser of the evils’ and decide which faults they will take into consideration over others.  

Costume: Formal Black bowler worn level on the head with lanyard, which is attached to the brim, centre back and anchored to a loop inside of the riding coat. Hairnet encasing the hair that is not short enough to sit flat is worn in a neat bun, French roll or drawn up under the bowler.  

White cotton, collarless shirt with double cuffs and either no sleeve visible beyond the coat cuff, or 1/4” or approx 1/2 cm visible. Plain gold cuff links with a chain.  

Well starched stock, correctly tied with the final crossed-over pieces passing right over left for lady’s, left over right for gentlemen. The stock is attached to the front of the shirt top-most button by the buttonhole provided in the stock and to the shirt again at the back to either a button or stud by the loop provided on the stock. Plain gold straight bar stock pin, which sits horizontally across the final folds of the stock and anchors the stock to the shirt. Small gold safety pins concealed underneath should attach the stock tails to the shirt.  

Waistcoat of toning check or plain colour (e.g. colour of breeches). About 1/2” or approx 1 cm of the waistcoat should show underneath the riding coat collar at the lapel. All buttons except those below the waist (if any) should be done up. Hand picked if possible.   

Riding coat, wool or wool blend, black, dark grey or dark navy is acceptable in WA. Single vent at the back. Buttonhole in right lapel for lady’s and left for gentlemen. Definitely no brightly coloured lining. Correct length—the coat should rest in the palm of the hand if the arms are stretched downwards and the fingers curled towards the thigh. All buttons done up unless they are below the waist.  

Breeches of beige or yellow wool or wool blend, hand picked with cream or beige suede strapping.  
Well fitting black leather top boots with a bootstrap at the top, which passes through the second and third buttons of the breeches. The buckle of this strap sits slightly to the outside in line with the buckle of the spur strap. The shape of this buckle should match that of the spur strap buckle. (i.e. square or oval— not one of each). The bootstraps should be of kid leather, lined and double 
stitched. No excess length through the keeper. The soles should be slightly roughened.  

Spurs should be plain dummy type, which must fit firm on the boot and level with the heel seam of the foot. Like the bootstraps, spur straps should be double stitched and the buckle should sit slightly to the outside of the instep. They should be measured to the correct length so there is no excess length of strap.  

Gloves should be stringed backed with leather palms, if possible matching the breeches. The gloves should be secured at the wrist with a button.  

Hacking cane should match the saddlery and be of plaited or plain leather.  

Lapel flowers are worn only in memorial classes, in which case they should be small, white with no greenery attached and worn in the right lapel for ladies.  

No earrings or other jewellery.  




Juniors Approved safety helmet, which must fit correctly. The hairnet and hair as for lady’s.  

Cotton shirt, white or pale cream, with double cuffs and either no sleeve visible beyond the coat cuff, or 1/4” or approx 1/2 cm visible. Plain gold cuff links with a chain.  

A plain tie should tone with the riding coat and a plain tie bar anchoring the tie to the shirt should be worn.  

Short boots (preferably kid leather), dark brown in colour with slightly roughened soles.  

Riding coat—wool or wool blend, tasteful, quiet tweed or plain colour (not black or too dark) with unobtrusive lining.   

Waistcoat as for lady’s.  
Other specifications as for lady’s.  

Jodhpurs of beige or yellow, preferable with hand picking. Self-strapping on knees with cuffs and small concealed zips which should be inside of the ankle.  

Spurs—plain dummy which sit firm on the boot and are worn level with the lowest part of the elastic inset of the boot. Spur straps, double stitched kid leather to match the boots in colour and the buckle sits slightly to the outside of the instep. No excess spur strap.  

Gloves and hacking cane as for lady’s. 

Smartest on Parade: All competitors are required to walk, trot and canter around the ring. The judge selects the finalists off the ring.  
The finalists will then be closely inspected for cleanliness and fit and quality of gear, conformation and soundness of horse, presentation and rider costume.   
A workout to further ascertain rider ability, general appearance and manners and paces of horse will determine places.  
Rider does not have to dismount.  
Rider’s attire may be formal or semi formal.  

Saddlery: (Same for all Turnout Classes) Brown gear is correct and desirable, but black may be used. Correct fit and condition of gear is a paramount priority. Leather must be top quality, worn in, soft, flexible and serviceable. All gear must be spotlessly clean and stitching “picked out”. Well fitting used gear should always mark better than new gear.  

Saddle: Dressage type saddle with three short girth straps to accommodate a leather Fitzwilliam girth with three buckles. It is desirable to have studs and dees covered with leather.   

A numnah of natural sheepskin should be the colour of the saddle. A numnah need not be used.  

Double Bridle: Buckles of cheek pieces, throat lash, bradoon strap and noseband to be approximately level with the horse’s eye. Both reins to have buckles. Bits—shiny and spotless. It is preferable and correct to have a flat browband and noseband. The curb chain should sit neatly into the chin groove with minimum number of spare links and to include a matching leather chain guard and lip strap.  

Points System: Conformation and Soundness   40 Manners and Paces    40 Riding Ability     40 Saddlery      30 Costume      30 Presentation      30 General Appearance    20 Total:      230