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.