As horse owners we look to each other to decide when and what to rug our horses in, do we leave them naked? Are we clipping? Do we have upcoming events? Each horse is different with different needs and each owner has different opinions.
Being cold sucks and lets face it, it doesn't do our physical or mental wellbeing the slightest bit of good. It's the same for our horses, right? As dedicated equestrians we hate to think of our equine partners stood out in the cold wild weather. We're all guilty of Anthropomorphism, This consequence of caring means we often use human emotions to help us walk in our horses shoes.
The first thing we think every owner should know is that horses have a different 'comfortable' temperature range. As humans we have a pretty small tolerance window, horses on the other hand are perfectly happy when their environment is anywhere between 5°c and 25°c. Unfortunately though, it's not that simple (it never is)! There are lots of things we do that have an impact on their ability to thermoregulate (manage their own body temperature).
"They're horses they don't need rugs!"
Though it's observant, it's not the be all and end all! Our horses are domesticated. While they have evolved some pretty impressive natural defences against cold, like their coat, fat, grazing and movement, we rarely allow these systems to behave naturally. Modern management practices such as grooming, restricted forage, stabling and clipping have all got to be taken into account.
Factors To Consider
Clipping - Horses bodies are very good at generating a Winter coat capable of keeping them warm. Working horses can get very hot and sweaty left unclipped. On a freezing cold day hosing them off if you don’t have access to warm water isn’t very pleasant and the thick coat takes a lot longer to dry off and cool them down slowly and safely can be a tricky task. This means clipping is often the only option. However, this leaves them without a very important insulator... Their coat!
Movement- Ever found yourself jumping around to get warm on a cold day? Moving around gets the heart beating quicker, this increases blood flow to the major muscles to raise body temperature. Keeping our horses stabled means they can't do this, so they may need extra help getting warm.
Food- Digestion generates heat, A bi-product of the fermentation process, a horses body uses this to keep warm! Impressive as that might be, it doesn't account for the domestic practice of limited access to grazing or forage! We all know ad-lib is ideal, but our bank balances (and our horses waistlines) mean it's not always practical.
Please have a look at the attached guide on rugging for a little bit of help on your decision.