#freelance grooms. To rug or not to rug? That is the question on today’s blog #horsehealth #equinejob
Written on January 26, 2018 at 3:05 pm
As we are underway in 2018 and temperatures fluctuate so much, more and more of us will be thinking about dusting off our range of rugs. But when and how should we actually be using them? All too often horses are over-rugged, leading to overheating and disruption of healthy weight loss, which can contribute to diseases such as heatstroke and laminitis.
Many horses in the UK are obese, far more so than are underweight in fact, and this has triggered an equine health crisis in recent years. Horses have a natural weight gain/loss cycle through the year; gaining more weight in summer, and losing it again in winter. This cycle keeps them healthy and staves off the development of laminitis in the spring and summer. It is this cycle that over-rugging disrupts: by keeping horses over-warm in the winter, they fail to naturally lose enough weight before the sugar-filled spring grass arrives.
So when should we be rugging, and how heavy should these rugs be? The truth is that it will depend on the horse in question: not only their breeding and age, but also individual traits such as how well they keep weight on, and how badly they feel the cold and rain. Most lightweight types, such as Thoroughbreds and Sport Horses, won’t start to feel cold until temperatures drop under 10°C, but will feel the effects of wind and rain more than heavier types due to their shorter coats. For native breeds and cobs, their longer coats and stockier builds will keep them warm even below freezing. Factors such as clipping and stabling will of course affect this: a clipped horse may need a heavier rug to compensate for the lost hair, whilst a stabled horse is kept naturally snug and warm as outside temperatures drop. Remember, you’re naturally comfortable at higher temperatures than your horse – just because you’re cold, doesn’t mean they are!
The easiest and perhaps simplest way to tell if your horse is wearing the right rugs is to monitor their body condition – if they’re dropping a lot of weight, they may need a heavier rug. If they’re full of beans and looking a little round, they can probably do without! The Blue Cross recommends that most heavier types can live out year-round without a rug, except in extremely bad weather.
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