String Vests

We went out for dinner last night with friends, and I have to wonder what other diners thought as they heard us discussing the credentials of string vests.

Can everyone remember the old fashioned cooler rugs? Which were basically a string mesh? Copied closely on the string vests worn by the working class in the 1960s.

I can remember a friend of mine having one for her pony. We were about eight. Even then I couldn’t understand how the rug worked to prevent a horse getting a chill as he dried off after a bath or hard workout. It was more hole than string. Of course, now I know that my friend was missing a vital piece of the jigsaw – the top rug that trapped the air to the horse’s body.

The science behind it is simple, and it must work otherwise humans wouldn’t have worn string vests for as long as they did.

The mesh creates pockets of air, which when a top rug is applied, are trapped between the horse’s skin and rug. As the sweat or water on their skin evaporates it transfers heat from the skin to the air pockets. Air is an insulator, so heat is trapped close to the horse’s skin, thus preventing them developing a chill, which they would if cold air was next to their skin.

Modern day fabrics, going back to humans, are just glorified string vests but the weave is closer together. Sweat is channeled out through the holes, and the remaining fibres trap the warm air next to your skin. Modern fabrics combine the string vest with a top layer, which means that these types of clothing are fully functional without the need for the top layer.

Thankfully for us equestrians, who perhaps don’t always understand the science and forget the importance of the top rug, the manmade fabrics that are so popular with athletes, are also available as cooler rugs for our horses.

I was surprised, when I did a bit of research, about the fact string rugs are still available to buy. But I guess it’s because we equestrians evolve slowly, and really if you’re listening to the logic behind them then it is sound – and why change from something that works?

Does anyone still have a string cooler rug? Perhaps stashed away in the garage. Or perhaps you still use them regularly?

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