Rubs: The Folly

By Ruthann Smith
© 2010, Ruthann Smith, All rights reserved.
Originally Published in Equine Journal

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Blanket Rub

Healthy coats rarely sport bald spots like the one in this photo.

You don't want rubs. They speak of poor care and discomfort. Despite their pervasiveness, boot and blanket rubs are avoidable. Ever wonder why you see rubs far more than ever before? Read on to learn the actual causes of rubs and how to avoid them.


Rider position is one major cause of rubs. As a rider, you have a responsibility to learn proper alignment of your body as well as get strong enough to keep your leg still without bracing. Toes should face forward with the rotation starting from the hip. Achieving a correct and quiet leg should be a priority. Clear aids make a world of difference to a horse. Don't wear spurs if you can't control the position of your leg.

Boot Rub

Rubs are saying something about your leg, care and products.


Dry coats are the other major culprit. Think about it. Dry hair is brittle and breaks. Parched skin is neither supple nor resilient. It does not promote growth. Add in the fact that clipping coats leaves each strand open-ended. Abrasive friction on weak hair and skin can cause sores.

If you do not curry often and vigorous enough, natural protective oils do not come to the surface, nor do they get released. Curry in a circular motion, in the direction of hair growth with elbow grease. Move from your back.

Good grooming not only stimulates and exfoliates to bring oils to the surface, but it fortifies the skin and nourishes the roots to strengthen hair. Proper grooming, with rhythm and muscle, tones both of you as well as carries oils down the hair shaft to close the cuticle. Clipped coats have no shine when the cuticle is open. If horses are consistently well groomed, they often don't look clipped. The hair is finer. They shine, because the skin was really healthy and clean before being exposed. Then, grooming closes cuticles and the strands are sealed. This makes coats look great. Winter grooming also defends horses against the elements. Oils help keep horses warm, dry and comfortable, so groom thoroughly daily and before and after work.

Traffic is not what wears out car- pets. Dirt grinding into it does. If you put your horses away without grooming, it will deplete their coats. Salt dries it out. Impurities, including footing and bedding, can make blankets, riding and galloping boots rub, creating sores.

Usually treatments for rubs actually inhibit healing by clogging pores, parching the coat and damaging cells. A handy topical salve treatment should not only be antiseptic, but also anti-fungal, moisturizing, nourishing, and soothing. It should clean and fortify the area for rapid healing. Hair has been known to grow back in three days, even with a horse in work.

Baby Pad

You can cover a boot run with a baby pad, but a better idea is to avoid creating one in the first place.


Cold air holds less moisture, which leads to dry skin, static and scurf. Usually products strip coats of natural protective oils or they coat hair, which suffocates it and leaves it brittle to break.

A proper equine enzyme will dissolve the bond with impurities, without coating or stripping the coat.

Horses will stay cleaner longer if coats are healthy. An all-in-one shampoo should not deplete, but instead should moisturize, nourish and condition coats. Only bathe when it is warm out. Don't let damp horses get chilled.


Using a bib and leaving slack in the front of the blanket keep shoulders more comfortable.


Blankets slide back. Gussets are designed for moving forward, not for lying down when shoulders come up. Pressure on the shoulders can cause soreness… and rubs. To avoid them I suggest the following tips:

Regardless of the kind of rub your horse has experienced, the objective is to avoid any rubbing. Be mindful. Groom well daily. You'll be amazed at the beneficial ripple effect for you and your horse.

Bio Pic

Ruthann Smith has spent a lifetime studying sound horsemanship- both as a groom for top international horses and as a renowned braider. Quietly twisting manes atop a ladder, she watched and learned in some of the best stables in the world.

As her passion for great grooming grew, Ruthann became focused on researching, collecting and sharing the best practices of the world’s keenest horsemen. Ultimately, Ruthann used her vast experience to develop exceptional equine grooming products to help raise the bar of horsemanship.

The knowledge she dispenses and the products Ruthann developed solve age-old grooming issues. Making quality horse care easier, they have received the highest honors in the equine industry*. Her Lucky Braids for Top Turnout coat care and braiding products are the best, most versatile, cost-effective and easiest solutions available on the market today.

Now Ruthann offers her LOVE, LOVE Guarantee. If not totally thrilled with a product she developed, Ruthann will refund you in full, regardless of where you purchased it.

It’s her life’s mission to empower horses by educating, motivating and equipping their people to be true horsemen. You can access Ruthann’s tips at: The Grooming Resource on, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and her Horsemanship Clinics.

*After testing 350 products, Lucky Braids All-In-One Horse Shampoo was named product of the year by Horse Journal, the “Consumer Reports” of the industry. They also named Lucky Braids Shampoo and Top Pick for greys and whites. Lucky Braids specialized braiding yarn also got stellar reviews.