Things to consider when choosing your horses turnout rugs:
- Is he clipped, unclipped or partially clipped?
- Is there a field shelter?
- The age and health status of the horse or pony?
- Does your horse have access to good quality forage?
- Is your horse in ridden work?
- What type of horse, pony or cob?
Choosing the correct weight rug for your horse or pony can be difficult, especially during the change of seasons or just the changeable Irish weather in general. Equines are generally well designed for cold weather, however when you add in wind, wet or clipping, these capabilities for cold reduce.
Horses and ponies living outdoors have different rugging requirements and guidelines to those horses and ponies that are stabled. Horses living out are exposed to much harsher weather conditions, the cold, the wet and the wind. However these horses are moving most of the time and generating their own heat. Horses are also generating their own heat when munching away on hay.
During the changes in season and on sunny winter days especially, rugging can pose a bit of a problem as you may have low night time temperatures but the sun in the middle of the day can quickly allow the horse to overheat. During this time of year a middleweight waterproof rug (100g-200g fill) is usually sufficient for a clipped horse in good condition. An unclipped horse is unlikely to need the additional warmth and if you want to keep an unclipped horse dry then a lightweight turnout rug (0g-50g fill) is sufficient. Keeping an unclipped horse rugged has additional benefit for those being ridden. Catching a soggy muddy horse when you are about to go riding will really mess up your time schedule!
(Image above features a horse in the wonderful Mackey Wicklow Turnout rug with detachable hood)
When a rugged horse begins to overheat, there Is little he can do to cool down. When a turned out horse becomes a little cold, he can move about to help warm himself up. So if it is the time of year when the weather is very changeable, and the temperatures are fluctuating on an hourly basis, then having your turned out horse a little bit cold would be preferable to allowing them to completely overheat. Obviously having the rug temperature spot on would be better, but this may involve multiple rug changes each day which is usually not practical.
During the more consistently cold weather the clipped horse living out may require a heavyweight turnout rug (300g-400g fill) and a hood, and the unclipped horse may require a slightly warmer middleweight rug, particularly if they are older or underweight. Some turnout rugs on the market feature removable hoods and liners which aid in the changes of requirements. It is also helpful to have a couple of rugs to hand, as after really terrible weather, even the very best rugs on the market may need a day to dry off properly.
(Image above features a horse in the wonderful Mackey Wicklow Turnout rug with detachable hood, showing the hood in use)
Some additional elements to take into consideration. Fields that are drier and more sheltered are more likely to have horses happily moving about, as they pick on some winter grass. A muddy and soggy field the horses might not want to move about as much, and no grass will mean they have no reason to move about. So there is more opportunity for the horses in the drier fields to generate their own heat and the ones in the muddy field are more likely to feel the cold conditions. Either way the horses should have access to hay or haylage. Older horses will generally loose condition quicker than others in the cold. Some horses are not used to the cold, if it is their first winter living out for example, their bodies may not have adapted to the harsher conditions. An Irish cob with a full thick coat in full health will not really require a rug, and in contrast a fine arab type may have a very fine winter coat. Then of course there are exceptions to everything! You need to use common sense and treat every horse as individuals.