|"Horses" by Eric LaMontagne is licensed under CC BY 2.0|
What do I really need?
There are many different sorts of horse rugs for many different purposes – and not necessarily just winter rugs. These include anti-sweat sheets, cooler rugs, exercise rugs, fleece rugs, fly Sheets, New Zealand rugs, rug liners, stable blankets, summer sheets, travel rugs, and turnout rugs – so it can be daunting to start working out which you’re going to need for your horse. And that’s before you start looking at different styles – high neck, detachable neck, combo or standardwith uncovered neck–as well as the various weights available. For winter, breathable and waterproof rugs are most appropriate, although, depending on the type of horse and the sort of work he does, you may also need an exercise blanket.
|"Icelandic Horse Closeup near Vik, Iceland" by Diana Robinson is licensed under CC BY 2.0|
Consider your horses needs
First things first, what winter rugs to buy will depend upon your horse’s type. Cuddly, hairy natives and hardy cobs tend to be good doers and will not fall victim to the cold in the way a thin-skinned highly-bred sort, such as a thoroughbred warmblood may do. Also, a fully clipped horse will need more protection than an unclipped, or only belly clipped pony and of course, you then need to consider whether the horse lives in or out – or a bit of both…
Once you’ve ascertained your horse’s type and requirements, it’s imperative to measure him correctly– from chest to quarters as well as his height in hands. An ill-fitting horse rug will cause rubbing, will not do the job properly, will be uncomfortable and could also slip, potentially contributing to injuries if a leg becomes trapped in a strap - or at the very least, make it easier for an incorrigible rug-wrecker to do his worst. Every yard has one!
Weather conditions can change
So you now hopefully have an idea of your horse’s requirements – but sadly no idea of what the winter holds. Back in the day, there was a one type suits all philosophy to horse rugs for winter – all clipped horse wore the bog standard New Zealand rugs or basic jute blankets from November to April - but fortunately we’ve come a long way both with technological advances and improved knowledge of a horse’s needs. Not only can you buy light, medium or heavy weight blankets – starting in autumn with a light or medium weight, and using the heavier weight in the depths of winter – you can also layer them, building up protection as required. Let your horse be your guide – if he’s sweating up under his rugs, lose a layer; if he’s tense and miserable, with any exposed hair on end and cold at the base of the ears, you can add a layer.
|"horse play" by bambe1964 is licensed under CC BY 2.0|
As we all know, horses represent a massive responsibility and commitment and rely totally on us for their comfort, health and wellbeing. Keeping him warm and protected from the elements over the winter is just one small part of that – wild horses may well survive reasonably well in some fairly trying conditions, but we choose to clip our horses in order to keep them in work, so it’s up to us to make sure they stay well, warm, dry and protected.
Do you have horses? What do you do differently to look after them in the colder months?