Autumn might be full of mists and mellow fruitfulness, but for our horses it also means dark evenings and wet, chilly starts (and their owners too!). While we can easily reach for the right weight jacket when mucking out, our four-legged friends need us to make the choice for them, and there are a few things to consider.
1. It’s all about weight
Autumn weather can be unpredictable – one day it’s chilly, the next positively balmy and getting the weight right is key to horse comfort. Whether a horse is clipped or left with a longer coat can be a factor, along with type of horse and whether they are stabled.
2. Early or late?
Rugging too early or too heavily can affect a horse’s respiration and leave them overheated and anxious. Similarly, too heavy a rug can affect a horse’s coat development which naturally thickens to protect them throughout winter. Look for signs that your hose is too cold, such as shivering and cold ears, or a tail that’s dropped down.
3. And breathe…
Breathable rugs will prevent your horse from overheating and minimise the likelihood of developing sores which can worsen in damp, muddy conditions. Waterproof materials are ideal in keeping the worst of the weather off your horse’s back.
4. Keep it clean
Rugs should be cleaned and dried regularly, so it’s worth investing in several rugs and rotating these to keep your horse comfortable and dry. Waterproof rugs need to be treated appropriately, so check the label before you wash.
5. A good fit
Of course, no matter how good a rug is, fit is crucial to ensuring your horse’s coat stays in optimum condition during the winter months. Check that the rug fits properly at the neck, and that the straps hold the rug in place without pulling. Belly straps – or cross surcingles to give them their correct name – help ease pressure on the horse’s spine. Measure your horse’s height but make an allowance for their build and coat when assessing weight.