The Great Horse Rug Debate
To rug or not to rug? A question that has tormented horse owners for years and years. Horse rugs provide an extra layer that is designed to provide warmth and protection from the elements but knowing when the time is right to deploy it can be tricky. The seemingly endless varieties of weather only serve to further muddle the issue. Cold but sunny? Warm but windy? How can there possibly be a definitive answer? Unfortunately there isn’t, but there are a number of general guidelines you can follow.
Horse itself – breed – skin/ age/clipped
A number of factors regarding the horse itself have to be taken into account when considering what kind of rug from Horseware Ireland to use, if at all. The breed of the horse will dictate how thick their skin is and subsequently, how likely they are to need a rug. Similarly, age and weight can also be factors. Older and/or underweight horses tend not to move around as much and tend to eat less – both of which are sources of heat. Additionally, clipping your horse will reduce their ability to maintain their temperature in cold conditions, making a rug essential in particularly cold conditions.
Try not to humanise horses too much
Only out of a genuine sense of care for the animal do horse owners have a tendency to humanise their own horses too much. Borne out of this misguided kindness though, is a propensity to misuse horse rugs- especially where temperature is concerned. Owners are far too quick to kit out their horse with a rug when it just isn’t necessary. If a horse’s ears are cold, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the horse is struggling with low temperatures. In the same way, if you are cold, don’t assume that your horse is as well.
Horses are built to endure the cold
In fact, horses have a number of adaptations that make them adept at dealing with the cold. Their hindgut has a secondary role as a kind of heater – the more forage they consume, the more they are able to stay warm and cope with colder temperatures. Horses are also able to raise all the hairs on their body to create an insulating layer of air that helps to keep them warm. Of course, if your horse is clipped, their ability to retain heat is also diminished.
Watch out for wind and rain
Wind and rain are more likely to necessitate the use of a rug than low temperatures. In the rain, the insulating layer of hair is flattened by water, and horses lose their ability to retain heat. Likewise, wind can flatten the layer of hairs, causing them to lose their insulating effect. Consequently, windy and rainy conditions are more likely to warrant the use of a rug.
Recent research conducted at the Norwegian Veterinary Institute, found that, with some training, horses could indicate whether they wanted a blanket or not. One day soon then, horses will be able to settle the debate themselves – bringing all the bickering over rugs to an end.