Many horse owners will want to put a rug on their horse at some point over winter. The type of horse rug chosen depends on many factors ranging from the temperature and weather conditions, a horse's lifestyle, his age and what breeding he is. When shopping for a rug you may be surprised by the vast choice there now is on the market, but basically there are two main types; Stable Rugs and Turnout Rugs.
|These are typically quilted rugs designed to be worn in the stable only, they have a varying amount of polyfill which will alter how warm the rug is. Lightweight stable rugs tend to have 150g or less of polyfill, these are great for chilly Spring or Autumn nights. A mediumweight stable rug tends to have slightly more padding and is suitable for most unclipped horses in Wintertime. Horse who have been clipped or who have a naturally thinner Winter coat may need a little more warmth from their rug, as may the more elderly horse.
Heavyweight rugs have between 350g and 450g of polyfill and will keep your horse snug and warm in the coldest weather. If you need to provide your horse with extra warmth in his stable, rugs are available in full neck styles, these give your horse maximum coverage from ears to tail.
Lightweight turnouts are great for use in summertime when you want to ensure your horse stays dry but you don't need to provide any extra warmth, typically they are made with a soft lining, no filling and a waterproof outer fabric. Heavier turnouts are more suitable for winter weather and are available like stable rugs with a varying degree of filling to enable you to choose a rug suitable to your horse's needs. Again full neck turnout rugs can be purchased to keep as much of your horse warm and dry as possible. Alternatively you could buy a standard turnout rug along with a separate neck cover, this enables you to choose whether to add the extra coverage or not depending on weather conditions.
It is worth remembering that a degree of common sense has to be applied to the performance expectations of your horse's rug. No rug (or human coat) can be absolutely waterproof when subjected to hours of torrential rain, today's high tech materials will withstand and repel a high level of rain and weather but will eventually begin to allow some water through. With this in mind it is highly advisable to have at least one spare turnout rug to use on your horse whilst the other is drying in a barn or tack room.
Similarly although many rugs have tough, 'ripstop' outers this does not mean that the material will never rip. Horses are large, powerful animals and their scratching or rubbing on branches or fences in a field can result in rugs being damaged. It is also worth rememebering that you are putting a foreign object on your horse and then leaving him unattended whilst wearing it. As such he may attempt to remove the rug if he becomes too hot or uncomfortable, this can involve intense rubbing which in turn can mean the rug becomes entangled on an object in the field. The horse will always attempt to free himself if restrained, rugs therefore have to be designed to rip or give way when put under a large amount of pressure. If you had a choice between an undamaged rug or an undamaged horse, which would you choose? When asked this question, you realise that a ripped rug is a very small price to pay after your horse's exploits in the field!
A good quality horse rug should last for many years, accidents permitting, but in order for them to last they do need to be cleaned and turnout rugs reproofed, preferably at least once a year. Regularly check for wear on buckles and fastenings and repair any small holes promptly before they become large tears. Remember to store your winter rugs securely when not in use so they don't become affected by damp or suffer damage from mice.
|Although a quilted rug will keep your horse warm and comfortable in the stable, it can't offer protection against the wet weather your horse encounters in the field. For this you will need a turnout rug, these come in different weights like a stable rug but have the added benefit of a waterproof layer to keep your horse dry. The outer material also tends to be made from a tougher fabric than a stable rug to help prevent tears and rips that can be caused by horses rubbing on trees and fences or whilst playing with other equines in the field.