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Choosing the Right Rug for your Horse

If you’re anything like me then it can be very easy to collect rugs, but how do you know which one to use? At this time of year, it’s generally cold, but the temperature and weather can still vary a lot, making rug selection tricky at times.

1. Do they need a rug

The first question to ask is does your horse need a rug? It can be really tempting to tuck horses up in rugs because we feel cold, but horses start to feel cold about 10 degrees lower than we do. The best way to check a horse’s temperature is at the base of their ears, if they’re nice and warm there then they might not need a rug.

2. Inside or outside

Will your horse be stabled or in the field? If they’re turned out they’ll need a rug with a degree of waterproofing, if they’re stabled then they can wear a stable rug. If the horse is in the field they may need a slightly heavier rug as the weather may be wet or windy. Horses who are in stables will be out of the wind, but they won’t be moving around as much and the stable design will make a difference to the temperature.

3. Fitting a rug

How the rug fits will make a big difference to the comfort of your horse and the effectiveness of the rug. Take two measurements: one from the point of shoulder to the point of buttock and the other from the withers to the elbow. These measurements will tell you what size of rug will fit your horse the best. Rugs that are too small are likely to rug the horses and will not provide as much protection around their tails. Rugs that are too big are likely to slip back and can rotate a lot which could cause a hazard.

4. Clipped or not

If your horse is fully clipped then they will need to be rugged to replace the hair that has been taken off. Horses who aren’t clipped should be fairly effective at keeping themselves warm, but if they wear a heavy rug then it will flatten their coat and make it harder for them to stay warm. Horses who have clips which leave some hair on will need to be monitored, depending on the clip they have, to make sure they aren’t too hot or cold.

5. Temperature check

Checking your horse’s temperature is the best way to find out if you’ve picked the right rug. While there are lots of fancy gadgets out there which will tell you what rug to put on, the best method is to put your hand under the rug. Sliding your hand into the neck of the rug to see what the temperature is like. If the horse feels like they’re almost sweating then the rug is too thick, if they feel comfortably warm then it’s ok.

6. Any conditions/ illnesses

Some conditions can affect which rug you choose. If you have a horse with a skin condition, such as sweet itch, they might need a specific rug, or to be a little cooler than other horses. Older horses may find it harder to stay warm, so might need closer monitoring to make sure they’re warm enough and not losing condition.

7. Out and about

If your planning to take your horse off the yard, maybe for training or competition then the rug choice will be different to staying at home. Horse can get warm when travelling so even in the winter, it’s best to travel them in a fleece. This will help them to regulate their temperature and will draw any sweat away from their body so they don’t catch a chill if they do get warm. It’s important to take a thicker rug or waterproof with you, then you have something to put on your horse at the show if you can’t keep them in your transport.

If you want more information about rugging, the British Equestrian Trade Association have some FREE resources which you can find HERE


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