While rugging our horses should be a simple task, the reality is it can become complicated. There are myriad rugs on the market, and every horse’s physiology and environmental situation is different. So, how do we decide if and when our horses need rugging and what rugs should we use?
TO RUG OR NOT TO RUG
A horse’s normal body temperature is between 37.5°C and 38.5°C; when the environmental temperature drops dramatically, the body institutes various measures to ensure it generates enough heat to maintain that temperature range.
Unless you have ‘good doers’ or hardy ponies – or reside in the northern states where winter is sunny and dry –rugging can be essential, especially for horses that are older, struggle to maintain body condition, or are clipped.
Rugging for winter depends on many factors, including what breed of horse you have, how much exercise or competition you’re planning to do, their age, and whether they are stabled or have shelter in a paddock. Cold, wet and windy days in particular make it harder for horses to keep warm, and on these days natural shelter or rugs are especially important. A warm, comfortable horse requires less energy (and therefore less food) to maintain weight and stay healthy. However, while we all want to keep our horses warm and snug in the cooler months, over-rugging is a very real concern – more on that later.
Rugging also provides the obvious advantage of keeping horse dry and clean for when you wish to ride. If you are competing and prefer your horses to be clipped, providing them with adequate rugging is essential as you are removing their natural defence against the change of season. If this is the case for you, you may find that you need several different rugs on hand and develop a layered system of rugging.
WHICH TYPE OF RUG?
Rugs vary in quality and design, with some owners preferring to double or even triple-rug their horse over winter depending on their individual situations.