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What Rug to use?

When to rug?   What rug to use?   How cold is it?     

 How do we choose what rug to put on our horse?  Do we check the temperature?  Do we watch the weather forecast?

Do we watch what everyone else has done?  Do we ask what everyone else at the yard thinks or wait for them to tell us?

Well, we can do all of those things but we should also be strong – and be our own person.  Your horse is an individual and is not the same as others on the yard. Every horse is different – in the same way as every human is different.

  • Take time to seriously weigh up your own and your horse’s circumstances each time you rug
  • Use our own judgement.
  • Avoid peer pressure which might encourage you to rug up too soon or too long or too warmly.

Many people with a non horsey background became able to own horses in recent decades. One of the results is that we now have a nation of horse owners who assume it is correct to rug their horses a little too warmly. Sometimes those horses are quite well covered so would not be that cold anyway.  The result of over rugging is contributory to our national laminitis tragedy.  The cruelty of laminitis is the pain endured.

Think very carefully about rugging this Winter – are you putting your horse in jeopardy.  As you put a rug on next time, think much more carefully about that particular rug you are about to put on.  Think about how you rug, when you rug and what rug you use.  Have you checked the temperature – not just right now – but what is expected later in the day.

Just because it is chilly now does not mean it won’t get less cold.  Your horse will cope with being chilly for part of the day because he is covered in a good thick warm coat of hair and has a good covering of fat beneath the skin. If others tell you that you are cruel because he is cold – remember that It is less cruel for him to be a bit chilly than it is for him to keep that bit of excess weight.


EVERY horse is different

Before putting that rug on – ask yourself:

  • Does he/she have a slightly thicker coat than others?
  • Does he /she have a slightly coarser coat than others?
  • Does he/she live out or get turned out often?
  • Is he/she used to living out?
  • Is he/she from a stronger breed line i.e. one that copes with colder weather and climates?
  • Is he/she part native or maybe part Irish ?
    • Native and Irish breed lines are more able to cope with living out and with less or lighter rugs than others.
  • Is the turnout field exposed to wind – consider the windchill
  • Does the horse REALLY need a neck cover – it can make them too hot and it can make them retain too much Summer fat coverage.

If you aclimatise your horse from early in the Autumn to a no rug policy unless really needed, he or she will cope better.  If you turnout  one day and it gets a bit colder later, your horse will cope  and aclimatise.  Do not always rush to change to the heavier /warmer rug simply because it MIGHT get colder.

Remember that the excess waistline he or she gained in the Summer is deliberate and natural for the wild horse and our domesticated horse is little different.  The horse gains weight so that they can afford to lose some in the Winter – that extra few inches of waistline helps keep them warm.  Rug later and lighter – and thank them for saving you rugging time.

Horses that are used to the colder weather and have spent most of their time outside, tend to cope better with cooler temperatures than horses that are stabled all the time. It also depends on the actual weather, for example – is it just cold or is it cold and raining or even snowing?

So when deciding what rug to reach for, here’s our handy little chart to assist you.

The chart below will help you decide when to use a lighter weight or heavier weight rug.  It still depends on what sort of horse you have though.  Do not just go by the chart – YOU MUST consider the individual horse and environment etc.  Be brave and be a little cruel this Winter.


Temperature Stabled/Clipped Stabled/Unclipped Turned out/Unclipped Turned out/Clipped
15 degrees and above A rug with zero fill No rug No rug No rug
10 to 15 degrees Light weight (100g) or maybe zero fill No rug – or maybe zero fill Nothing No rug or v. light weight (100g), or maybe zero fill if wet & windy
5 to 10 degrees Medium weight (250g) Light weight (150g) No rug or light weight (100g) Light weight (150g) plus neck cover
Zero to 4 degrees Heavy weight (300g) Medium weight (200g) No rug or light/ medium weight (150-250g) Medium weight (200g) with neck cover
-10 to zero degrees Heavy weight (300-400g) with neck cover Medium weight

(200-300g) with liner

Light or medium weight

(150-300g) with neck cover

Heavy weight (300-400g) with neck cover plus liner
-10 degrees or colder Heavyweight (300-500g) with neck cover plus liner Medium or heavy weight (300-400g) with neck cover Heavy weight (300-500g) plus neck cover Heavy weight (300-500g) plus liner and/or under blanket and hood


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