With winter on the way now is the time to consider what winter rugs your horse is likely to need. Here at Naylors Equestrian we pride ourselves on the wide array of rugs we have available and with so many rugs to choose from you are sure to find something suitable for your horse or pony! We stock some of the most well known brands like WeatherBeeta, Horseware and Premier Equine.
Rugs have developed a great deal in recent years and have come a long way from the original jute and canvas New Zealand Turnout rugs and heavy wool blankets used in the stable. Rugs are now lightweight, breathable and packed with innovative technology and time saving features.
Types of Rugs
There are so many different types of rugs available that it can become quite mind boggling when trying to decide what is best for your horse or pony. Have a look at our guide to winter rugs to help you decide what you want to treat your horse to this winter. When choosing a rug for your horse their breeding, age and needs should be taken into consideration.
Rug warmth is categorised into three different weights:
- Lightweight – Rugs with no or very little filling, fleeces, coolers and sheets.
- Medium Weight – Rugs with a filling generally around 200g. Ideal for changing seasons, milder autumn/winter weather and for horses that are not clipped
- Heavyweight – Rugs with a filling generally 300g upwards. Ideal for the colder winter weather and for horses that are clipped or particularly feel the cold.
There are different styles of rugs available in both stable and turnout:
- Standard Neck – the traditional style rug with a neck that finishes at the withers.
- High/Half Neck – a neck that extends half way up the horse’s neck and ideal for those that suffer with sore withers as there is no pressure over the wither area.
- Combo – the neck extends all the way up the horse’s neck to the ears.
- Removable Neck – some rugs offer a removable neck piece/hood allowing for added versatility depending on the weather conditions. Hoods can be attached by clips or velcro.
There are a wide array of turnout rugs available for horses but which one should you choose? Your horse’s needs and breeding should be taken into account when selecting a turnout rug, as should the weather conditions and the amount of time the horse is likely to be out in the field.
For those that live out
Some horses prefer to live out all year round and so may need to be rugged up accordingly. Horses are much hardier than people realise, afterall they do have a fur coat, and many can happily live out all year round whatever the weather brings.
If your horse is an unclipped hardy type (more often than not native breeds and cobby types) then he probably has a good thick coat and does not require much rugging. Medium and lightweight rugs are a good option for hardy types as they will keep the horse warm and dry without over heating them. Rugs with a small amount of filling like the Horseware® Amigo® Hero 6 Lite 50g Standard Turnout Rug and the WeatherBeeta Original 1200D Combo Medium Lite Weight Turnout Rug will allow the horse to regulate their temperature much better than a lightweight rug with no fill at all; the light filling will allow the air to circulate much better, prevent condensation gathering inside the rug making the horse damp and sweaty, and the small amount of padding will absorb any sweat and allow a layer of warm air to be trapped against the skin. Just think how uncomfortable and sweaty you can get in a thin rain coat compared to a lightly padded coat.
For those only out a few hours.
Many of us do not have access to full turnout through the winter months so many horses are on restricted turnout. Even if your horse is only going out for a few hours a few times a week it is still worth rugging him up appropriately. A horse that is used to being in a warm stable for most of the day may feel the cold once he is turned out. However, it is worth taking into consideration just how excitable your horse is likely to be once is he let out. If your horse is likely to run around the field, play and generally be very excitable he may get too warm in a heavyweight rug. A medium weight rug with breathability may be a good choice in this case; your horse will be nice and warm without overheating as sweat will be able to evaporate through the rug.
Excitable horses and those that like to run and play will need lots of freedom in their rug so the WeatherBeeta Freestyle range is a good choice. The forward positioned leg gusset and the cupped shoulder dart of the Freestyle range allow for maximum movement and can help prevent rubbing in even the most boisterous of horses!
Fine horses and those that are clipped
Finer horses and those that are clipped will require more rugging in the winter months. Quite often fine horses like Thoroughbreds, Arabs and show ponies are prone to feeling the cold and struggle to keep themselves warm. A cold horse will feel cold to the touch, may have a fluffed up coat, may shiver and will appear tucked up. There are a variety of heavyweight rugs that will provide adequate warmth for finer and clipped horses. A combo rug offers head to tail protection and is a good choice for a horse that feels the cold. Layering can also be an effective way to help keep a horse warm as warm air will be trapped betweeen the layers but this does have it’s downsides; layered rugs are more prone to slipping and may become uncomfortable for the horse or even dangerous if they slip to the extent they may be stood on or become tangled around the legs. Layering is best kept to the stable where your horse is less likely to move around and dislodge his rugs.
In The Stable
Stable rugs are for use in the stable and although they offer less technical features than turnout rugs they are perfect for keeping your horse warm when inside. Stable rugs come in a variety of weights meaning there is always a rug available to suit your horse’s needs according to the temperature.
Under rugs are a useful rug to have in your horse’s wardrobe as they can help add warmth without adding too much bulk. Quilted under rugs are generally slimmer in design than stable rugs yet will add a toasty warm layer for your horse. Fleece, lycra and stretch under rugs are thin and close fitting and can be used to help keep the horse’s coat flat, to keep the inside of stable rugs clean and can add a thin layer of warmth without adding bulk. Stretch and lycra under rugs are great for thin skinned or sensitive horses as they can hep prevent rubs or irritation from stable rugs.
Fleeces, sheets and coolers
Fleeces, sheets and coolers are ideal for cooling a horse off after exercise without him getting a chill and are also great for layering in the colder weather. Fleeces and coolers offer excellent wicking properties that allow moisture to be wicked away from the horses skin and coat. The moisture that is wicked away from the horse’s coat will sit on the top of the rug yet the horse will be dry underneath. Fleeces and coolers are ideal for use after exercise when your horse is sweaty and if your horse is wet from the rain.
Fleeces, coolers and sheets are also ideal for layering in the colder weather. Putting a fleece under a rug will add minimal bulk whilst giving your horse an extra cosy layer. Layering rugs will help trap warm air in between each layer and can actually keep a horse warmer than one thicker rug. Ensure layered rugs are securely fitted as they can be more prone to slipping; an elastic surcingle can be beneficially in keeping rugs in place.
Fleeces and stable sheets are particularly handy for keeping the chill off on milder days or for horses that are not clipped and do not need a thick rug when in the stable. Stable sheets can also be used underneath stable rugs as they will help to keep the inside of the stable rug clean and are much easier to wash on a regular basis.
In recent years it has become more and more apparent that ponies are simply not the same as horses, they deserve rugs that fit their smaller frames! WeatherBeeta and Horseware offer a unique range of pony rugs that have been specially designed to fit ponies. The ranges offer the same features and technology as the larger rugs but are available in smaller sizes and have been developed specifically with the smaller frames of ponies in mind. Say goodbye to those too big rugs that overwhelm and more often than not rub and irritate ponies!
For the chunky equine
WeatherBeeta has developed a new range of turnout rugs specially designed for the chunkier horse. The new Wide range of rugs have been specially sized to allow more room for the rump, chest, neck and shoulder area making them ideal for chunky natives and heavy set cobs. Say goodbye to chest expanders, unfastenable neck straps and exposed rumps and hello to the ultimate comfort for your horse! Here at Naylors we have a range of turnout rugs in the new Wide fitting, click here to browse.
Deciphering the technical jargon
Ripstop material is stronger than non-ripstop material and will not tear as easily. Ripstop does not mean that a rug is completely rip proof but, if a hole or rip was to occur in the rug, the special weave of the material will prevent the rip from spreading any further. A small hole is much easier to repair than a half shredded rug. Horse rugs are never made indestructable, they have been designed to be hardwearing and durable but in the event of an emergency they will give way. After all it is much better to have a damaged rug than a damaged horse should your horse get into difficulty.
Denier or ‘D’ is the strength of the rug outer and has no relation to the weight or warmth of the rug. The higher the denier, the stronger the rug. 600D is the lowest strength rug available at Naylors and 2500D is the strongest. If you have a horse prone to mischief in the field or one who is friends with a rug wrecker then the stronger the better!
Polyfill is the inner filling used in most horse rugs and offers excellent warmth without too much weight or bulk. Nowadays the physical weight of a rug does not dictate the warmth it will offer; a heavyweight 300g rug no longer has to be heavy to lift onto the horse saving both our backs and our horse’s! The WeatherBeeta Wave Quilt 210D Stable Rug has a unique diamond pattern that reduces the amount of air held in the rug and so allows for a less bulky rug that is just as warm as the WeatherBeeta Channel Quilts of the same weight. Lighter weighing rugs are ideal for elderly and sensitive horses that become uncomfortable with a lot of bulk on their backs.
From the bottom to the top of the range
Most equestrians want to save a bit of money where possible and so a cheap and cheerful budget rug can be very appealing but could it worth splashing out on the top of the range rug or it is just a waste of money? Both Horseware and WeatherBeeta offer a variety of rugs to suit all budgets. The Mio range is the basic rug range from Horseware that offers minimal features with a minimal price tag, the Amigo range is Horseware’s mid range and Rambo is the top of the Horseware range that is packed with innovative features and tecnology. Similarly, WeatherBeeta offers the Genero, the Original and the Freestyle ranges. The Genero may not have the same features as the Original and Freestyle rugs but it offers the same quality fittings and materials and is the perfect choice for someone wishing to spend as little as possible without compromising on quality.
Horses in the winter
Native breeds have evolved with a hardiness that allows them to cope extremely well with the harsher British winter whereas finer breeds like Thoroughbreds and Arabs, originally bred in hotter climates, may cope well with hot British summers but will often struggle in the colder weather. Finer horses do not store as much fat, do not grow as thick a coat and often fail to utilise their nutritional intake as well as a native type might and so will require more rugging during the colder weather. That being said there is no reason why a finer breed cannot happily leave out all year round as long as they receive appropriate care like suitable rugs, additional food and shelter from the harshest of the weather. A native breed or a ‘good doer’ can make the most out of what he eats and so is likely keep himself warm and maintain condition even in the harshest of weathers where as a fine horse that does not receive adequate feed will use up his own fat stores quickly in order to keep warm and so lose weight and condition.
With this in mind, does your native pony really need that heavyweight rug? Would he cope just as well in a medium rug or one with minimal filling? Does your fine Thoroughbred receive enough feed and wear the right weight rug to help prevent him using up his fat stores and loosing weight? Medium weight rugs like the WeatherBeeta Genero 1200D Medium Weight Turnout or the Horseware® Amigo® Hero 6 Plus Combo Medium Weight Turnout Rug would keep a native or hardy type toasty warm without over heating and the removable neck cover makes for additional versatility in the changeable British weather. Finer horses and those that feel the cold would be better suited to a heavyweight rug like Horseware® Rambo® Supreme with Vari-Layer® Heavyweight Turnout Rug with its unique layered heating system designed to help prevent heat loss or the versatile WeatherBeeta Freestyle 1200D Detach-A-Neck Heavyweight Turnout Rug with its cosy 360g filling and removable neck cover with a snug fleece neck cuff.
What are your top tips when preparing for winter? Do you rug your horse up for the winter or let him go au naturale?