Rug Warmth Guide

We often get asked questions about how heavy a rug is needed for your horse, so we thought we’d put together this guide to give our two cents on it.

If you’re not sure, start light, then slowly try heavier rugs

It’s much worse for a horse to be overheated than too cold, so if you’re not sure how many rugs you should be putting on your horse, start with a lighter rug, start learning the signs your horse is giving you about his temperature, and then add layers until you’re happy with his temperature.

The signs

Too hot

  • If your horse is too hot he’ll be sweaty under his rug (note: make sure your rug is breathable. If you’re using a cheap-non breathable rug, he can get sweaty and clammy even if he’s not too hot.
  • He may seem restless or antsy. This is a bit vague, we know, but if something doesn’t seem right, go and check him. It could be overheating (an easy problem to fix)
  • Your hose is more thirsty than normal. This one is pretty common sense, just like people, if horses get too hot they’ll sweat and dehydrate, so they’ll be thirsty
  • Shivering, or raised hairs on his coat
  • Is huddled for shelter (with other horses or other shelter you have in his yard)
  • Low body temperature. Make sure you check several places, girth, shoulders, and rump; get a good feel for his overall body temperature. If he’s cool to the touch in some areas he’s probably having trouble maintaining his body temperature
  • Number 1: your horse’s comfort. He doesn’t particularly like being cold (or too hot either)
  • To help maintain condition. In colder weather he’ll burn more energy keeping warm, and will quickly lose condition if you don’t adjust your feeding regime accordingly. Which leads us to the next point…
  • To reduce you feeding bill. Following on from the last point, if he’s cold, he’ll eat more. So keep him warm to minimize the feed bill
  • Maintaining a clipped rug. In colder months, unrugged horses will naturally grow a thick hairy coat to keep themselves warm. If you use your horse for showing, or performance sports, you’ll want to keep him warm to keep his coat nice and short.
  • Old horses and young foals should be given extra attention, as they won’t be able to regulate their body temperature as well as a horse in its prime.
  • Horses do naturally grow a thick winter coat to keep them warm all winter, so as long as you’re happy to have a hairy horse (and don’t mind the extra feeding costs while your horse acclimatises to colder weather), you’ll only need to rug him in wet weather (even a thick coat won’t protect him in the wet), and maybe a ripstop polycotton rug to keep him cool on hot days (because he can’t take his coat off like a jumper)
  • If you clip your horse, you’ll need to start rugging well before the end of summer; by the time Autumn hits your horse will already have started growing his coat.
  • Sudden changes of climate – horses take 2 or 3 weeks to acclimatise to different conditions (this is the timeframe needed to acclimatise to the changing seasons). Keep this in mind if you relocate your horse somewhere significantly hotter or colder, and keep an eye on him during those first 2-3 weeks. This also goes for heat waves and cold snaps – it pays to keep an extra eye on him in those sort of conditions.
  • A lot of people use ripstop polycotton rugs throughout summer as coolers, and as summer starts to fade, they’ll add a second polycotton rug or a light waterproof turnout rug (like our rainsheets).
  • As winter sets in, most people use a medium-weight turnout rug or combo (like our winter rugs), sometimes with an under-rug as well (like our polycotton rugs).
  • In our experience, 220 grams of fill is sufficient for any horse in Australian conditions. Heavier rugs (300 or even 400 grams), are really only appropriate for extreme conditions like the -20oC or -30oc of Canadian or northern US winters. Using rugs this heavy in Australian conditions will more than likely overheat your horse, and we do not recommend them. Don’t kill your horse with kindness
  • Don’t forget, when your horse is rugged up in winter, you’ll probably need to take a layer off or use a lighter rug during the day.

Too cold

Reasons why you should rug your horse

Things to be wary of

When to start rugging

Rugging for the warmer months

There are a few reasons to rug your horse into the warmer months, including:

  • Sun/heat protection. A light riptstop polycotton rug will keep the sun off your horse, to avoid bleaching his coat and to keep him cool
  • Insect protection. Many horses are sensitive to the bites and stings of insects, and a good light ripstop rug will keep the majority of insects and bugs at bay.
  • Summer rain protection. This is a tricky one, if the weather’s hot a waterproof rug can easily overheat your horse, but if you want to keep him dry make sure you only use an unlined turnout rug (optionally with an under-rug to assist in wicking moisture away from your horse’s body), and take the turnout rug off as soon as it stops raining.