What is a Horse Rain Sheet Used for? (Is it NECESSARY?)

Wondering what is a horse rain sheet and what it is used for?  Should You put one on your mare or stallion?

Blanketing decisions are one of the toughest ones.

I’ve been there and trust me I was confused by all the different sheets & options available. 

I bet you are too!

But not after READING  my detailed guide! 

Read on to learn everything you need to know about the sheets so that you can feel confident knowing if and when your horse needs a rain sheet.

READ MORE: Horse Blanket vs Sheet: What Are the Key Differences?

What is a Horse Rain Sheet?

What is a Horse Rain Sheet?

It is a thin and breathable waterproof sheet designed to keep your horse dry in rainy weather.

They are thinner than horse blankets and even turnout sheet for horses.

The sheets do not keep your horse warm, as they’re not insulated [1] with fill like a turn out blanket but instead are a simple barrier between your horse and rain

(It’s essentially a raincoat for your horse!).

What is a Horse Rain Sheet Used For?

These rain blankets keep your horse dry and comfortable in the rain.

I put one on my horse during the winter days season, allowing freedom of movement, so they stay dry and enjoy playtime with their pasture buddies.

They also:

  • Keep your horse comfy and dry when their pasture is muddy
  • Offer a barrier against the weather. Preventing skin conditions like rain rot [2] that arise due to moisture
  • Give your horse protection against wind, UV protection, and other elements that come with the rain
  • Some therapeutic blankets offer warmth and soothe muscles due to their special nano-fabrics.

It is best to use rain sheets in warm weather when most rain showers occur.

Rain sheets can replace turnout blankets in the summer because they can keep your horse comfortable without overheating.

I prefer rain sheets with denier lining if my horse needs extra warmth.

Why Do You Need a Rain Sheet for Your Horse?

Why horses need rain sheets

The sheets are necessary for horses because their natural coat defenses may not be enough to defend against rain rot and other illnesses caused by moisture.

This is especially true with a clipped horse. I always keep my horse safe by blanketing when clipped. 

Rain rot occurs during the rainy season. It is a bacterial infection caused by Dermatophilus congolensis [3].

When wet, it activates and creates the infection, which appears as brown, moist lesions on your horse’s skin. Causing severe skin irritations.

It is treated through bathing with antimicrobial soap and warm water.

You can prevent rain rot by regularly keeping your horse clean through bathing and brushing.

This is effective because if your horse is clean and dry, the bacteria will not become active and will not develop the infection.

Additionally, separating horses with rain rot from those who do not have it will prevent the infection from spreading.

I have never experienced rain rot with my horse. However, it can be severe when not addressed, so it is vital for me and you as horse owners to know about it. 

Do Rain Sheets Work on Horses?

They do work, provided the fabric is not torn or tampered with. Durability is one of the most important factors to consider when purchasing a rain sheet.

How many times have you gone to get a horse from the pasture only to find its rain sheet ripped to shreds?

It will not be effective at keeping them dry then, will it!

Additionally, never put a rain sheet on your horse during cold weather.

If you do, it will cause their coat to mat down, preventing the coat hairs from sticking up to keep your horse warm naturally.

When your horse cannot regulate their body temperature, it will be more susceptible to sickness and even death.

As equestrians, the last thing you and I want is for our equine partners to get sick.

8 Key Considerations When choosing a Rain Sheet 

There is an arsenal of blanket options.

They come in a range of styles, sizes, and materials. They are designed for different purposes and different climates. 

Choosing a sheet that will provide adequate protection from the elements is crucial but not be heavy enough to cause overheating.

The following tips will help you choose the suitable horse rain sheet for your needs:

1. Choose the Correct Size

Horse rugs come in a variety of sizes.

It should have girth loops, leg straps, shoulder gussets, leg arches, and a tail flap placed at the horse’s girth area.

This allows it to custom fit snugly, preventing it from slipping or riding upon the animal’s shoulders.

A perfect blanket fit is neither too tight nor too loose, one that stays in place during regular activity without shifting.

2. Understand the Materials

Horse sheets keep horses warm

Horse rugs are made from various materials, including cotton, reflective strips, synthetic fabrics, and waterproof fabrics like PVC.

Cotton tends to absorb moisture and become heavy when wet.

Synthetic fabrics and waterproof horse rain sheets are lighter and offer breathable protection but are slippery in muddy conditions.

3. Identify the Purpose of the Blanket

There are many types of horse rugs on the market today, including stable blankets and cooler rugs, which offer less protection than a rain sheet or a turnout rug for those living in colder climates.

4. Choose a Color 

Some people prefer blankets with bright colors,  colorful plaid designs, or plain colors, depending on personal preferences.

5. Go for a Waterproof Sheet

If you live in a rainy area, having a waterproof blanket is essential.

Horse rugs are made from various materials, including cotton, reflective strips, synthetic fabrics, and waterproof fabrics like PVC.

Since they are made to be waterproof, they will shed any water off of them and will keep your horse dry and comfortable.

While not all waterproof blankets are breathable, that’s not a big issue if you’re using them in cold weather.

Apart from the extreme weather conditions, it’s a good idea to have at least one waterproof sheet in your horse’s wardrobe.

6. Understand the Lining

Horse blankets come in different types of linings. Cotton is the most popular since it’s cheap and absorbs well.

Anti-sweat sheets have a polyester lining that is more durable than cotton and more expensive.

Soft nylon lining also tends to be slippery, which can be annoying for horses who like to lie down in their blankets, so cotton is often the preferred choice for this use case.

You can also consider Anti-static, Anti-bacterial Polyester lining.

7. Shop for the Best Price

Of course, an economical price is a factor when choosing a sheet. You can find quite a number of sheets at an affordable price.

8. Go for Durability

Finally, a good sheet should be a blanket for life without breaking down or falling apart… no one wants to be replacing them every year!

If you want to learn more about horse sheets, here is a great video:


Should I put a rain sheet on my horse?

Put a rain sheet on your horse if you want to keep them dry and comfortable while protecting them from the elements and moisture-based skin conditions like rain rot.

Can you put a rain sheet on a wet horse?

You can put a rain sheet on a wet horse if it has breathable fabric to allow air to flow through. If it is not breathable, the moisture will be trapped on their coat and cause rain rot. 

Is a turnout sheet the same as a rain sheet?

Although rain and turnout sheets are both waterproof, rain sheets do not have secure clasps, which makes them unsuitable for turnout.

To Wrap it Up

In the end, it all comes down to personal preference when it comes to horse rain sheets.

Hopefully, I have helped in your decision-making process when acquiring a sheet for your horse. 

Just don’t forget the most critical factor: that horse is out there waiting for you!


  • 1. MIG Building Systems [Internet]. MIG Building Systems. 2019. Available from: https://www.mighome.com/how-does-insulation-work
  • 2. Rain Rot in Horses [Internet]. Penn State Extension. [cited 2021 Dec 21]. Available from: https://extension.psu.edu/rain-rot-in-horses#:~:text=Rain%20rot%2C%20also%20called%20rain
  • 3. Dermatophilus congolensis – an overview | ScienceDirect Topics [Internet]. Sciencedirect.com. 2012 [cited 2019 Mar 19]. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/dermatophilus-congolensis
horse wearing a blue rain sheet

Do you use a rain sheet for your horse? Let us know your experience in the comments below!

Bryanna Tanase
Bryanna Tanase

Bryanna is a 23-year-old Florida-based Grade 1 Para-dressage rider based in Florida and she has been riding for 5 years. Horses are her passion and her ultimate goal is to be selected for the US Para-Equestrian Team and represent the US at the Paralympics. She rides at Quantum Leap Farm and Emerald M Therapeutic Riding Center and her equine partners are Shane, an American Paint Horse, and Cappy a Welsh x Thoroughbred. When she is not helping at the barn, riding, or training, she is learning about horses, writing articles about them, and using her social media platforms to raise awareness for therapeutic riding and para-equestrianism, shares her journey, and advocates for greater inclusion of para-equestrian in the media and equestrian sport at large.
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