Does Your Horse Really Need To Wear A Rug When It’s Wet?

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When you notice a dark cloud come overhead, it can be instinctive to grab your turnout rugs and run outside. When it comes to rugging your horse, many horse owners have a different approach based on their own beliefs and the lifestyle of their horse. We’re here to squash any common myths and educate on whether you should be providing your four-legged friend with that extra layer of protection from the wet and windy weather conditions.

Natural evolution

As native breeds have evolved, their bodies can adapt to their living conditions to help them live a comfortable lifestyle without additional extras. Breeds such as Shetland’s are naturally protected from the wet weather thanks to their almost entirely waterproof coat, which keeps their skin dry and warm. With dense insulation that traps air between their hairs and multiple layers, you can be confident that your horse will be fine during unexpected showers. 

Each hair is coated in an oily substance that repels water, emitting it down to the lower layers. If you notice your horse rolling on the ground, they may be compressing the hair follicles to release the oil onto the hair. If your horse needs additional support with this process, the practice of ‘strapping’ consists of using a wisp of hay against the horse’s skin as this squeezes the oil from the glands onto the hair, resulting in a glossy coat. Although many horse owners use products such as horse shampoo to try and get the shiny finish, this can strip the natural oils and reduce the effectiveness of your horse’s natural waterproofing.

Maintaining body heat

Not all horses can withstand the cold conditions without additional support as the winter months approach. Especially if temperatures drop below freezing level, the core body temperature drops, and the horse has to increase their metabolic rate to generate body heat. If they begin to shiver, this is a reflex triggered by the brain to generate heat from the movement of the muscles. 

Depending on your horse’s strength, some may be able to get the warmth they need by seeking shelter from nearby trees that provide a level of protection. In contrast, others may need additional help to support their body in regulating its temperature. The addition of a turnout rug with wicking properties will mean they not only get a level of protection from the wind and rain, but you can choose different levels of filling to keep their body warmer in the cold weather.

Even for horse’s who tend to be fine without the addition of a rug, be sure to keep an eye on the wind conditions. Rainy weather combined with a strong wind can result in a harsh wind chill on your horse’s body, making it difficult to stay warm and risking health concerns such as rain scald and mud fever.

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