As we say goodbye to summer, it’s once again ‘all change’ here at the store. We’re packing away our summer essentials to make room for our gorgeous new winter stock (both for you and your horse), and fabulous giftware goodies. But it’s not just inside the shop doors that change is afoot; it seems as though autumn is now well and truly upon us. The leaves are turning, the nights are drawing in and we’re finding ourselves back in the timely conundrum of ‘Which rug?!’
Of course, this is a dilemma we and our customers face every year. With the British weather seemingly more unpredictable than ever, trying to choose the right rug can feel like an impossible task. And now with a never-ending choice of styles, fills, durability and prices the decisions are not getting any easier. So, to try and help you through the winter rug quandary, we’ve put together this little guide of the most important points to consider when you’re shopping for your horse’s winter wardrobe…
1. Stable, Turnout, or both?
This sounds like an obvious place to start, and well, that’s because it is. However, accounting for your horse’s turnout and exercise routine may be key to cracking what type of rug(s) you’ll need and when. Obviously, if your horse is being turned away for the winter, your rug requirements will vary greatly to a horse who will be staying stabled, or who may only have limited turnout. Here are a few things to consider:
· How much turnout will my horse have over winter?
· Is my horse a ‘good-doer’, or does the colder weather bother them?
· Will my horse be clipped this year, if so how much hair is coming off?
2. What about the fill?
When we talk about rugs, we often talk about its fill; essentially, this is the ‘tog’ weight of the rug, and dictates how warm the rug will be. Generally speaking, rugs with a fill between 100g and 200g are considered to be medium weight rugs. Anything above that fill is then classed as a heavyweight rug, and anything below a lightweight.
Most owners will inevitably end up with a collection of rugs in different fills to try and ensure they are prepared for whatever the weather brings, but more and more manufacturers are looking to alleviate the issue of multiple rugs by creating multi-liner rugs. These are a great option if you’re short on storage space!
So, after all the rigmarole of figuring out what type of rug, the fill and why, we can start to look at the specific functions of each rug.
3. Turnout Rugs
Turnout rugs (or New Zealand rugs if you’re a little old school) are made of waterproof fabrics designed to keep your horse warm and dry. They are available from 0g fill lightweight rugs, through to 600g super heavyweight rugs.
Toughness is an important aspect when it comes to looking at turnout rugs, so be sure to pay attention to the denier (thread count) of the canvas used on the outside of the rug. Most turnout rugs have a 600 outer denier, but much higher thread counts are available. Buying a rug with a higher denier doesn’t guarantee that the rug will last longer, but generally it will reduce the chances of it being ripped to shreds
4. Stable Rugs
Having a separate stable rug can be invaluable if your horse is a little older, feels the cold easily, or is in convalescence. Obviously stable rugs do not need to be waterproof, so they are often lighter weight than their outdoor counterparts, but will still generate the same amount of warmth for your horse. However if you are not routinely stabling your horse, sticking with your turnout rug is fine, even in the stable. Just be sure to take it off regularly and groom your horse to help them freshen up, and prevent skin problems.
5. Neck or no neck?
Nowadays, virtually every rug (both stable and turnout) has the option of an attached or detachable neck. Having a neck on your rug can be a great help if your horse is prone to feeling the cold, is clipped, or you want to help keep your horse clean. However, as horses do not tend to lose significant amounts of body heat through their neck it is possible to ‘over-rug’ your horse this way. Using a rug with a detachable neck may prove to be more versatile in unpredictable weather conditions, but do bear in mind that having your horse’s neck covered can lead to hair loss on the mane and wither, so getting the right fit is very important.
6. Getting the right fit
So, we’ve covered the practical stuff and hopefully by now you have a clear idea of what type (or types) of rug are going the be the most suitable for your horse. However, it is important to mention that even the most expensive of rugs will fail to perform if it is not fitted correctly.
Badly fitted rugs can cause damage to your horse, not only through rubs and sores, but also by creating pressure points on the wither. As well as being painful, this may even prevent your horse from working properly when being ridden.
If you are unsure of how to fit a rug to your horse, have a query about sizing, or simply can’t decide as to what the best option for you and your horse is, then we’re here to help. Our staff are fully trained and always on hand to help you figure out what size and shape you need, and as it’s likely that one of us will have tried the rug you’re looking at so we can give you an honest opinion.
And don’t forget, not all horses need to be rugged up. If your horse is a good doer, and you aren’t planning on clipping, chances are your horse will be just fine au naturel… maybe I should have just said that in the first place?
About the author
Sophie has been a member of staff at RB Equestrian for 11 years.
She is a keen equestrian and has 3 horses: Lilly, an appaloosa, who is 6 years old; Jasmine, another appaloosa, who is 25 years old; and Megan an anglo-arab and she’s 36 years old.
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