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When to rug your horse

Updated: Feb 17, 2020

With any rainy weather, we usually see an influx of advice from people who don’t know your horse recommending for you to leave them out un-rugged because “it’s not cold”.

Just remember that what is true for some horses may not be true for others.

We always have different horses rugged in totally varying weights, or not at all. In a summer storm, we had about half of the horses here rugged up, some in medium weights and some in heavy weights, depending on how they cope with the weather.

Rowan had a 100g fill rug on and access to the stables with haynets, but has been outside grazing all day and night while Flame enjoyed his box.

Another horse was in a heavyweight rug but broke through an electric fence to bring herself in.

Our boys were shivering so they had their rugs on.

Horses do shiver to thermo-regulate but so do we, as people, and it’s not particularly comfortable to be outside shivering violently for us, so we doubt it is for horses!

We also had a Norwegian Fjord here who wouldn’t need a rug on if it was blizzarding and didn't even notice rain!

Our advice to you is to monitor your individual horse or horses. If they are shivering, they may need some sort of barrier between them and the elements.

When we rug, we flatten the horse's hair, taking away their ability to fluff up and keep them warm. For this reason, it's better to leave a horse without a rug, than a too thin rug.

Avoid rugging your horse in their heavyweights on days where the weather is milder. There are many different types of rugs for us to have at our disposal, but heavy weights should be saved for the worst of the weather!

No Fill rugs are only really good for summer showers. This is because there is nothing between the outer and inner linings of the rug. No matter how new or waterproof the no-fill is, it's like pressing the inside of a tent to the outside in torrential rain, it will always let in water!

Light Weight rugs, from 50g-100g can be all a native needs for the whole winter. The layering means that they are unlikely to leak and are usually warm enough when paired with a nice, thick coat.

Medium weights, usually around 150g-300g, are great for the finer breeds to start off winter. When it's still pretty mild but there's been a lot of rain! These can always be switched out for a lighter weight rug on the dry, warm days... If we have any!

Heavy weights are perfect for a horse who is of a finer breed, and living out all winter, and for just after clipping! Horses are often clipped to keep them cooler during exercise. You have taken the horse's natural defense against the cold and rain away, so you need to give them something a little more.

Don't forget: Horses get colder the wetter they get, keeping your horse dry is the best way to keep them warm!

Check your horse's temperature in their rug to make sure it's the right weight. This only needs to be touch testing. After an hour or so of them having the rug on, slide a hand in between the rug and their body. If they're hot to touch, take the rug off, they are better off cool than over heating. If your horse is warm, chances are that's the right weight rug! If they are cold and haven't warmed up, they might need a slightly heavier rug on.

Horses' coats fluff up to keep themselves warm, they struggle to do this in the wet weather so are more likely to need a rug when it's warm and wet rather than dry and freezing!

Because of the fluffing up reaction, your horse is better equipped to deal with the weather when they have no rug on than if they have a rug that's too thin on. If you're thinking of leaving your horse in a no-fill rug, you're usually better off leaving them out naked as the rug traps the hair down but also won't give the horses enough warmth.

If you have a cold, wet night and then a warm, dry morning, please get out early in the morning to take your horse's rugs off. If you won't manage it, don't put their rugs on.

A horse with a field shelter or extensive natural shelter will always be better off than one who is in a field open to the elements. If you have a nice, cosy shelter which your horses can go in and out of as they please (ideally with some hay in), they will likely be fine without a rug.

Over rugging is a problem but so is under rugging so know your horse and don’t let people tell you over social media how to manage them, they are all different!

If this has helped you at all, please comment or share with your friends. If you're feeling victimised or bullied in any way, please feel free to message us, we are a safe and non judgemental ear!

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