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Rugging Traditions

November 2018 by Dr Georgina Downey
An art historian who's published extensively on the domestic interior, Dr Georgina Downey is the human of Classic, the dressage schoolmaster and Angas, the Cairn terrier. In this regular Horses and People in Art column, she provides a unique equine-centred perspective to famous equestrian artworks.

From bearskin saddle blankets to hoods resembling knight’s caparisons to magnetic ‘therapeutic rugs’, we’ve come a long way in the history of horse-rugging and, since we are now looking forward to finally casting off those winter turnout rugs with sighs of relief, this is a timely moment to consider the rugged horse in the history of art.

Prior to the eighteenth century, horse rugs were basically large ornamental public-occasion heraldic-patterned or ‘parade’ coverings that would also have kept horses warm.

These date back to BC [before the birth of Christ], to our friends the Scythians. Art from outside Europe tells a similar story around the world, and images of the non-Western rugged horse proliferate in Persian, Mughal, and American Indian horse cultures.