Are you Rugging your Horse Correctly?

Written by Wednesday, 04 January 2017 15:31

The rug debate that's heating up! 

Well, winter is certainly upon us and we’ve already experienced some hard frosts in Cornwall. I constantly find myself worrying about my horse when it's cold and frosty...Is he warm enough? How many rugs does he need?

I currently own a 5yo Irish Sports Horse who’s had a full clip in preparation for his season of hunting and show jumping. He currently has two rugs on - one under rug and a full neck outdoor rug over the top.

I've kept horses for 20 years and I thought I had a good idea on how to effectively rug them. However, after reading veterinary articles, and doing some research, I'm starting to feel a bit guilty that I’ve been adding one too many rugs. Here's what I found out:

• It's a myth that a horse with cold ears is cold. Just like humans, a horse can have cold ears even if the rest of their body is warm.

• A horse has an amazing mechanism to keep itself warm which is achieved through eating. A horse effectively has a large in-built heater inside its gut, generating heat from its digestion.  The more food it eats the more heat it produces.

• You can put your horse through a lot of discomfort by over-rugging. For example it can cause weight loss due to overheating and can affect the ability of the horse to control its own body temperature. It's much easier for a horse to warm himself up than it is for him to cool himself down.

• Fully clipping a horse will reduce its ability to keep warm by a 5°C margin, i.e. it will feel cold sooner. This can be can be managed by feeding the horse larger amounts of forage, to generate more heat.

• When looking at the weather forecast the two most relevant factors are wind speed and rain, not how cold it will be. If a horse gets wet and it's windy this can really affect their ability to stay warm. Be mindful of this when selecting the number and type of rugs.

Rugs are important and necessary for the well-being of our horses, however I'm sure many will not realise that they could in fact be over-rugging their horses.

Make sure you think about your horse when you apply more rugs and don't assume that if you're cold then your horse must be too…


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1 comment

  • Comment Link Rebecca Harrison Friday, 20 August 2021 10:11 posted by Rebecca Harrison

    The whole debate around rugging your horse does get pretty tiresome - especially as you can set your watch by the plethora of blog posts and articles that are published every Autumn around the topic.

    The truth of the matter is that there's always going to be extremes of opinion on this subject. The biggest issue we find with rugging our horses is keeping up with the changeability of the UK weather system!

    Far easier to deal with extreme coldness than it is moderate weather with bursts of wind/rain and sunny spells. Over the last few years we've been rugging our unclipped natives very little and have noticed improvements in skin and coat quality as a result. We'd rather spend more on hay and feed through the winter months than risk our horses being a bit too warm with their rugs on. Overall the spend isn't drastically increased as we aren't having to place out yearly rug orders with (much to their disappointment no doubt).

    But I think overall we have happier, more comfortable horses as a result of being more prudent with our ability to rug them, and now do ere on the side of cold - if that makes sense?