Abi Rule Equestrian Horse Care Horses

To rug or not to rug?

February 8, 2017

Are you rugging your horse correctly?

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?

Catago Equestrian Review A Country LAdy

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.Catago Equestrian Review A Country LAdy

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 5oC 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.

showjumping blog

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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  • Reply EquiPepper February 21, 2017 at 1:43 pm

    I completely agree with this! Over rugging is a real pet hate of mine as I understand how hard it is for horses to cool themselves down.

    My horse is an ex racehorse, albeit a fairly hardy one! But I’ve been at yards where he will have a blanket clip and be in a lightweight rug and be the perfect temperature. Then next door there will be a 2 year old, fat fluffy cob, rugged up to the eyeballs. -_- It’s crazy.

    Yes all horses are different but it doesn’t seem to matter what most horses want/need, it just all boils down to how warm/cold their owner is and that they think they are doing the kinder thing letting them be too warm.

    • mm
      Reply Abi Rule April 11, 2017 at 10:08 am

      I share your frustrations and so happy you agree. I get really upset when I see show ponies in the summer with 2-3 rugs on just to keep their coats looking nice. It’s really cruel and I think people can be very ignorant to actually how much discomfort they are putting their horses in.

  • Reply Sophie Tunnah March 13, 2017 at 12:35 pm

    This is a great post and a dilemma that I think we all come across most days in the winter. Interesting about condition when they are hot too… Always better to be a bit cooler than too hot! Enjoyed reading 🙂

    • mm
      Reply Abi Rule April 11, 2017 at 10:09 am

      Thanks Sophie – great to hear your thoughts and glad you enjoyed reading it 🙂 x

  • Reply Horsebox Hire Cambridge April 4, 2017 at 8:29 pm

    Thanks for posting, I too may have been over-rugging my horse! :/

    • mm
      Reply Abi Rule April 11, 2017 at 10:06 am

      No problem. I think it’s so easily done without thinking about it. I definitely have over-rugged my horses in the past :-/ x

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