It’s important to care for your horse all year round, but with winter in full swing, investing in a winter horse rug is a sure way to keep your horse snug in the stables during the cold months.
As horse rugs can be a big investment, choosing correctly is important for your wallet, confidence and your horse. The right choice should be protective and well-fitting, and result in a comfortable and happy horse. It is important to keep a selection of horse rugs of different weights at hand for when your horse requires relief from the cold or heat, or needs to be protected from flies or dust. You can also layer two different rugs to achieve just the right degree of warmth and coverage for a sensitive horse, and then simply remove one of them when appropriate.
Where to start?
- The first things to consider when buying a horse rug are:
- When and what it’s for – indoor or outdoor use, when the horse is at grass, after exercising, or travelling are just a few of the times your horse may need a rug.
- The breed and condition of your horse
- Weight and quality of rug filling - Most horse rugs are made from breathable manmade materials that wick moisture away from the horse’s coat to keep him comfortable at all times. Many models contain various quantities of padding to suit different climates and seasons. The weight and filling needed will depend partly on the air temperature and the length of the horse’s coat, and whether the animal is kept out in the open, under shelter, or in a stable.
- Fabric type and strength - Just like a pair of tights, the strength of a horse rug can be determined by its denier count. The denier is actually a measure of the fibre density in the fabric. You might be surprised to learn that, for safety reasons, horse rugs are intentionally designed to be less tough than they could be. In other words, if the material catches on a fence, for example, or if it slips and the animal treads on a corner, it will tear rather than withstand the pressure and endanger the horse or rider.
- The exact size needed - If a horse rug does not fit properly it can rub and chafe, causing the horse a lot of discomfort. If it is too big it might slide off and trip the horse up. It is therefore important to measure your horse thoroughly before buying.
- The environment the rug is to be used in
Purchasing a rug at any time of year will benefit your horse greatly, but more so than ever in the winter months. Take a look at the different styles below and see which is the best type of winter horse rug to keep your pony warm!
A standard rug has a neck that stops at the horses wither and leaves the neck exposed. This is usually a good option for lighter weight rugs for warmer weather as neck coverage simply offers more protection and coverage, and therefore keeps more heat in.
A high necked rug is as it sounds – it features a neck extends beyond the withers, but does not cover the whole neck. High neck styles are a good choice if your horse has prominent withers or has problems with rubbing with standard styles, as there is no direct pressure on the withers. A detachable neck rug has the same shape to the rug as a standard neck but is specifically designed to be able to attach a matching neck cover. Think of it like a detachable hood that you might have on your own winter coat! These neck covers are great for flexibility as the neck can be attached at any time to add warmth and protection should the weather change – making it an ideal winter horse rug. They may also offer better value for money as you can change the style of the rug by simply adding or taking off the neck cover. You may not need as many different types of rug to see you through the seasons.
Combo rugs have a permanently attached neck that covers nearly the whole neck up to the ears. This is an extremely popular rug style, and this style offers the most warmth and protection. You won’t have to keep track of a separate neck rug or worry about leakages as the neck is permanently attached.
Like our own clothes, correct size is important! Each horse is different and each style and type of rug fits differently. Before you start shopping or measuring rugs, be guided by a rug you know fits well and look for rugs with a similar shape or features. Most branded horse rugs are available in sizes 4’0 – 7’6” in 3 inch increments. It is most common to see rugs measured in feet and inches. This is a measurement taken from the centre of your horse’s chest to the point of buttock. You will also see measurements in centimetres on some rugs – this is measured from the withers along the spine to the top of the tail. Be sure to measure in the correct unit for the measurement you are taking.
To get an accurate measurement use a soft tape measure and ask someone to help you. If you are unsure of the measurement you have taken you can double check by spreading a well-fitting rug flat on the floor and measure from the front of the chest clips to the bottom of the rug. Do not include the tail flap. This is helpful to confirm you have an accurate measurement.
It is important to make sure that you buy the correct size rug for your horse or pony to ensure that it stays in place and is a comfortable fit. Measure your horse or pony from the centre of its chest, along its body to the rear of its quarters.
A quick view of the market?
Tried and tested reviews are a great way to quickly assess new horse rugs on the market, and get some insight from other horse owners. Otherwise speak to your friends at the stables and ask questions on forums to get recommendations. Don’t be tempted to always choose the cheapest option as it may be false economy if it doesn’t fit well or leaks.
A few other things to think about
Does your horse usually feel the cold? Are you going to be clipping him? Thinking about a few extra factors can make a difference to the type of winter horse rug you buy, especially if your horse gets too hot or too cold. A horse that gets cold easily will have cold ears, exposed hair will stand on end and he will stand tense and not relaxed. On the other hand, horses that get too hot will be sweating under their rugs and will appear very restless. Whilst cold horses will begin to shiver, a horse that’s too hot will begin breathing heavily.
How many rugs do you have for your horse? How will you be keeping him warm this winter? We would love to find someone who claims to have the biggest ‘horse rug wardrobe’ around! Comment below or post on our Facebook page to let us know!