Time to dig out your horses Winter rug collection! Have you had snow yet where you are or just bitterly cold winds, harsh hail and torrential rain? No matter what area you’re in, there’s a really good chance Winter weather has arrived in full force! Let’s be honest, as horse owners we look forward to the new year in the hope that temperatures will soon be back on the rise. We hate to bring bad news, but unfortunately we’ve got quite some time yet. With the worst still to come, are you prepared?
Does your horse need a Winter rug?
It’s no secret, being cold sucks and lets face it, it doesn’t do our physical or mental wellbeing the slightest bit of good. It’s the same for our horses, right? As dedicated equestrians we hate to think of our four legged friends stood cold in their stables. We’re all guilty of Anthropomorphism, no bad thing! This consequence of caring means we often use human emotions to help us walk in our horses shoes (excuse the pun). But… There’s a whole lot of contradictory advice out there, making it almost impossible to know what’s the right thing to do! Being bombarded at the yard with unwanted opinions isn’t nice but if we had a pound for every time we’d heard one of these statements we’d be rich, would you?
“They’re horses they don’t need rugs!”
“Rugging makes horses fat”
Ever been on holiday and struggled to cope with the climate? If you’ve found yourself wearing multiple layers while everyone else is in a t-shirt, this is going to be pretty relatable! The first thing we think every owner should know is that horses have a different ‘comfortable’ temperature range. As humans we have a pretty small tolerance window, horses on the other hand are perfectly happy when their environment is anywhere between 5°c and 25°c. Unfortunately though, it’s not that simple (is it ever?!). There are lots of things we do that have an impact on their ability to thermoregulate (manage their own body temperature).
Though it’s observant, it’s not the be all and end all! Our horses are domesticated. While they have evolved some pretty impressive natural defences against cold, like their coat, fat, grazing and movement, we rarely allow these systems to behave naturally. Modern management practices such as grooming, restricted forage, stabling and clipping have all got to be taken into account.
Factors To Consider
Condition and Weight – Keeping warm burns calories! Our horses bodies have to work hard to raise their core temperature. For every degree drop in air temperature your horse will require a 1% energy increase to prevent them becoming cold. For horses that don’t hold their weight very well, rugs can be key to maintaining condition throughout the Winter. On the other hand, rugged good doers may require a slight reduction in hard feed.
Grooming – Don’t know about you, but I was always told to avoid grooming a turned-out horse during Winter. Grease found in your horses coat acts as natural waterproofing. Not always an easy compromise when they’re covered head to hoof in mud! Realistically, not grooming for weeks on end is neither practical nor beneficial. A waterproof turnout is often a much better solution!
Clipping – Horses bodies are very good at generating a Winter coat capable of keeping them warm. But we’re not sure they got the memo about riding! Working horses get very hot and sweaty left unclipped. On a freezing cold day cooling them down slowly and safely can be a tricky task. This means clipping is often the only option. However, this leaves them without a very important insulator… Their coat!
Freedom To Move – Ever found yourself jumping around to get warm on a cold day? Ok, it looks silly…But it works! Moving around gets the heart beating quicker, this increases blood flow to the major muscles to raise body temperature. Keeping our horses stabled means they can’t do this, so they may need extra help getting warm.
Food – Did you know… Digestion generates heat? A bi-product of the fermentation process, a horses body uses this to keep warm! Impressive as that might be, it doesn’t account for the domestic practice of limited access to grazing or forage! We all know ad-lib is ideal, but our bank balances (and our horses waistlines) mean it’s rarely practical.
Our Winter Rug Recommendations
Trust your instincts – The truth is, you know your horse best! When it comes to Winter rugs knowing that factors that will have an impact is a great way to make a thoroughly informed decision. As a rough guide, here’s what’s recommended:
Winter Rug Top Picks
Given the freezing temperatures expected over the coming months, there’s a good chance we’re all going to have to opt for medium and heavy weight Winter rugs. So, we’ve picked some of our favourites to help you get ahead of the game!
WeatherBeeta ComFiTec Channel Quilt 220g
- Standard neck
- 210 Denier outer
- 220g fill
- 210T polyester lining
- Adjustable front buckle closure
RRP £69.99 £52.99
Saxon Defiant 200g Turnout Rug
- Fantastic Value
- Standard neck
- 600 Denier ripstop outer
- 200g fill
RRP £69.99 £59.99
WeatherBeeta Polar Fleece
- Standard neck
- Anti-rub nylon shoulders
- Anti-pill fleece
RRP £49.99 £44.99