We hate to break it to you, but even though it’s the end of December our winter weather hasn’t quite hit it’s peak just yet. Usually January/February time are the coldest months in the UK, with sometimes the temperatures plummeting to at least – 10 degrees in some places! That means there’s still plenty of time to dig out your horse’s winter wardrobe, or maybe even top it up.
It’s sometimes quite hard knowing what rug is right for your horse, especially with opinions flying around left right and centre at the yard. We’ve come up with all the factors you need to consider when rugging your horse this winter as well as a helpful guide to allow you to make the best decisions.
As horse owners we can all be guilty of comparing our horses to ourselves and how cold we get. But actually, horses are naturally pretty comfortable between 5 -25 degrees. This is described as a thermoneutral zone and is huge compared to ours as humans which is between 25 – 30 degrees. However, there are lots of other factors to be considered when choosing a rug for your horse.
While horses have evolved and developed some impressive natural defences against the cold, its important to remember that we have domesticated them over the years. Horses in the wild are allowed to grow thick coats, graze constantly and live out 24/7 while most of our horses are stabled, groomed regularly, fed differently and sometimes clipped. All of these things mean that our horses natural defences cannot behave as they normally would.
With a thick winter coat, most horses are good at keeping themselves warm. But when a horse is in full time work a thick winter coat can prove to be a hinderance as they will get hot and overly sweaty. This means that cooling them down properly can be time consuming and tricky, so sometimes clipping is the best option. If your horse is clipped, you will need to rug more heavily than usual to make up for the coat that they have lost.
Keeping warm burns your horses calories and energy levels, so for horses that don’t hold their weight well, winter can be a struggle. You may want to think about rugging up horses who are naturally not very good doers or older horses as this can help them to maintain their condition when the temperature drops.
The grease in your horse’s coat acts as a good waterproof barrier from the rain. If you ever observe your horse when they are wet, you’ll notice that the top layer of hair is wet but underneath that where the skin is, it’s dry. We think its pretty remarkable! Over grooming in the winter can result in taking that top layer of grease away so your horses coat loses its waterproof barrier. A waterproof turnout rug is a good option to avoid over grooming your horse when they’re a mud monster!
It’s a well-known fact that movement warms you up on a cold day, the same is said for horses who are turned out. When horses are stabled overnight, they cannot move around enough to keep warm, so you generally need to rug up more to compensate for this when stabling.
You know your horse better than anybody else, as like humans, they’re all different and some can feel the cold more than others. As a general guide though, we tend to refer to the below charts when we’re unsure about what rug to use:
The brand new LeMieux Arika Rugs are perfectly designed for layering thanks to the unique liner system. Using a rug liner system works out as a far cheaper alternative to buying rugs in different weights, as you can simply attach or detach your liners depending on the temperature.
The Arika range features turnout and stable rugs in weights up to 350g and 100g-200g liners to clip inside. A 200g rug is generally the one we tend to use more in the winter, so choosing one of these and a 100g liner would be a good way to save space on your rug rack, and some pennies along the way too!
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