Which rug should I put on my horse?

Rugging Temperature Guide

Now, this doesn’t cover everything there is to know or every different circumstance, and I sharn’t make this into too much of a biology lesson either. But hopefully it helps in times of rugging confusion!


What I have learnt…

I have run some of the most elite yards in the country, working with both old-school and new-age tendencies. This is what the last 22 years and over 200 horses have taught me…

  • When deciding on rugs, remember that each horse is an individual. Some might be hot, some might be prone to a chill, try not to pigeon hole… apply common sense as much as you can!
  • Under rug rather than over rug… particularly when turned out. Horses move around to increase blood flow and use energy stored from food to generate heat… they cannot strip a layer off or pant like a dog to cool down. If in doubt, leave it out!
  • Have a good layering system that you can whip layers out of and keep the under layer clean and free from scurf (technical term!). This will stop rubs and save scraping grease off your hands all winter!
  • Do not judge horses by how hot or cold YOU are… you are a human, you do not have fur, you do not have the same thermoregulation system as a horse, FACT. If you are cold… move around for 5 minutes, do not add a 600tog duvet to your pony!
  • Consider their environment, are they indoors? Are they in open, windy fields? Shelter from high winds and rain will change how you rug, as will constant supplies of good forage (fibrous hay, grazing or hard feed).
  • Using turnouts in the stable is FINE! It actually will stop the rugs absorbing pee. Just make sure you have one that fits well and isn’t causing rubs if you’re leaving it on 24/7.
  • Wet rugs… unless you have somewhere warm and dry to air them, take it off, check it’s got no leakage and chuck it back on… it will dry in no time at all! You might not want to stand about in a wet coat but your horse is NOT a human, he will not give two sh*ts!
  • Drying a wet horse in winter without a solarium or warm shelter could seem like Mission Impossible but it’s not. After a good towel dry, put on a thick, winter weight cooler (underneath a spare rug turnout or stable if required). This can be left on (approx 2-3 hours for non clipped and 30 minutes- 1 hour for clipped) and then changed before the temperature drops, this will do the job of wicking the moisture from the horse and into the rug. Do not leave these wet rugs on over night if you know its going to get cold. I am also a huge fan of ‘thatching‘, stuffing the underside of the rug with straw will dry a horse much quicker than any cooler in my experience.
  • The best place to feel for temperature is NOT the ears or legs where there is very little muscle to get cold… feeling behind the wither should give you the best indication.

In the olden days…

I first learnt rugging systems when turnouts (New Zealands as they were then known) were made of heavy canvas, they had no belly straps just a leather thread through buckle at the front, two leather leg straps and a lining made of felt, wool or thick fleece like fabric.  They were VERY heavy to get on, but they NEVER moved and only occasionally rubbed a shoulder or two! You could jet wash them and paint on wax-jacket reproofer to save money too!

Stable rugs were made of ‘jute’ which looked and scratched your skin, like an old potato sack. These were layered with Witney blankets made of wool secured with a jute roller or a duvet and circingle if you were lucky!

But what do you ACTUALLY need?

I used to be a rug hoarder, I had a rug for every eventuality and I think this is SO common these days with far too much choice. Now I only need 2 rugs and they are the best I have found after trying pretty much EVERY brand and style available over the last 20 years.

Pat, who will soon be fully clipped, lives out all year round, he will be rugged very well because he feels the cold.

I use the FALPRO GOODWOOD, this is a complete set of outer rug, 3 liners and 2 neck options and is currently on sale at £255.99. This might seem a lot, but you will never need another rug again!! It comes with a 3 year waterproof warranty and in previous experience FALPRO rugs have lasted well even over 10 years old .  You’ll be covered for all temperatures and all seasons with this one rug and it’s great for stable kept horses too.

As much as I adore the thick, 600g weight FLEECE COOLER from Falpro (pictured at the top), if you can afford it, you really wont go far wrong investing in the patented wicking fabric of the Thermatex. The best of their range has to be the T2000 which I have used on many horses for years and nothing comes close on drying times… you do however need around £160.00 to get one and I just haven’t managed to stomach it for an occasional use rug just yet.  The fleece cooler from FALPRO is £71.99 at the minute and works perfectly for what I need.

So, I think that’s enough from me, if you have any questions please feel free to pop them in the comments 🙂

Happy rugging! Bye for now xxx

Vic Brant

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