With the UK’s rapidly changing weather conditions, comes the British horse owners continued predicament; to rug or not to rug?
Many of us can relate to the feeling that our horses are just too vulnerable to endure a 10⁰C drop leading us to wrap them up in cotton wool or the next best thing, a heavyweight turnout rug. With this in mind, here is some useful information to reassure you that sometimes your horse or pony is just as cosy, if not more comfortable, without his duvet.
Like humans, horses maintain their internal body temperature through a well-developed process called thermoregulation. Mature horses should ideally sustain a body temperature of around 38⁰C and, to avoid any health problems, it is crucial to ensure that there are no significant variations outside of this normal temperature range.
A horse’s most resilient anorak
Did you know that a horse’s coat is it’s most prime insulator? Dependent on factors such as breed and age, the thickness and depth of a horse’s coat can dramatically vary. The outer layer of hair on a horse’s coat is protected by a cover of natural oils, which help to repel water to prevent their skin from becoming wet or cold.
On this topic, be mindful to not over-groom your horse, as you risk removing the natural oils from their coat. If only it was as acceptable for us to get away with not washing our hair regularly!
So which horses need rugging?
We are often guilty of forgetting that for some horses, commonly natives, it is easier (and far less tolerable) for them to become too warm than it is for them to become too cold. In fact, a great way to help your good doer shed a few pounds is to not rug in colder weather to encourage them to use their energy/calories to keep warm. Of course we must be mindful that there will always be some horses that require a little more pampering in the form of a warm rug such as poor doers, seniors and clipped horses.
Feed forage frequently
Another way to encourage your horse to keep warm is to ensure plenty of access to forage at all times. When a horse digests fibre a process called fermentation takes place in the large intestine which creates heat from within.
Checking your horse’s body temperature… the right way!
Admittedly, most of us will take the approach of judging whether our horse is cold their softest (and our favourite) areas such as the ears or nose. However, horses will divert the blood flow and heat from the skin surface to their internal organs to preserve a core temperature. One of the best ways to assess the warmth of your horse is to slide your hand under their armpit, which may jut become your new favourite glove!
It will be an ongoing muse whether to rug or not to rug your horse, however, we ought to give more credit to these clever animals for being able to survive with, or without, the love and TLC of us devoted horse owners.
For more information on keeping your horse warm over Winter and providing a balanced diet contact the SPILLERS Care-Line on 01908 226626.
advice about horses, advice for horse owners, equine, equine advice, equine health, winter feeding