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Which rug should I put on my horse? H&H’s helpful guide to help you decide


  • As temperatures fluctuate at this time of year, many horse owners around the UK spend a considerable amount of time wondering “Which rug should I put on my horse?”, as well as “Does my horse need a rug today?” and this is where a horse rugging guide comes in handy. It’s easy to assume that if you want to wear a coat while you’re outside, then your horse would like to have a rug on, too. But this is not a good rule of thumb.

    Horses have a much wider thermoneutral zone than humans do. Research has shown this means a fit and healthy unclipped horse typically feels cold only when the weather creates temperatures below 0°C and they feel hot when it reaches 25°C. Humans have a much narrower thermoneutral zone of between 25–30°C. So when we think it’s cold outside, horses still feel quite comfortable.

    For horses that are turned out, the weather plays a significant role. Wet and windy weather will have a chilling effect and those who are young or old are likely to be less able to maintain their body temperature in these conditions so that should be taken into account. But if shelter is available and the horses have access to plenty of forage, which helps keep them warm from the inside through the digestive process, they may still not need a rug even when temperatures drop.

    Before deciding which rug to put on your horse, you need to consider all of the variables, such as their level of work, their feeding and stable management regimes, whether or not they are clipped including what type of clip they have, the condition that they are in and their access to forage, plus obviously the weather, tailoring your decision to the individual animal’s needs.

    Below is a guidelines of when a horse is likely to need a rug, which can be used as a starting point for your decision making. For this purpose a clipped horse is one where the majority of the hair has been removed from the horse’s body such as in a full clip or hunter clip. A horse with a low trace clip or similar, that leaves much of the coat on the horse’s body, should be considered “unclipped”, especially if they are a good-doer or tend to be overweight.

    Horse rugging guide based on temperature

    Stabled horses

    Temperature: above 15°C

    • Clipped: no rug or a lightweight no-fill rug, such as a summer sheet
    • Unclipped: no rug

    Temperature: 10–15°C

    • Clipped: lightweight stable rug (50g-150g) or a lightweight no-fill rug, like a summer sheet
    • Unclipped: no rug or a lightweight no-fill rug, like a summer sheet

    Temperature: 5–10°C

    • Clipped: middleweight stable rug (around 200g)
    • Unclipped: a lightweight no-fill rug, like a summer sheet, or a lightweight stable rug (50g-150g)

    Temperature: 0–4°C

    • Clipped: heavyweight stable rug (around 300g)
    • Unclipped: a lightweight stable rug (50g-150g) or middleweight rug (around 200g)

    Temperature: -10–0°C

    • Clipped: heavyweight rug (300-400g) with a neck cover
    • Unclipped: middleweight rug (200g), possible with a liner

    Temperature: below -10°C

    • Clipped: heavy weight rug (300-500g) with neck cover, plus a liner if needed
    • Unclipped: middle or heavyweight rug (300-500g), with neck cover if needed

    Horses turned out or living out 24/7

    Temperature: above 15°C 

    • Unclipped: no rug
    • Clipped: no rug

    Temperature: 10–15°C

    Temperature: 5–10°C

    • Unclipped: no rug or a zero fill or a light weight turnout rug (50/100g)
    • Clipped: lightweight turnout rug (100/150g), plus a neck cover if needed

    Temperature: 0–4°C

    • Unclipped: no rug or a light to medium weight turnout rug (150-200g)
    • Clipped: medium weight turnout rug (200g), plus a neck cover if needed

    Temperature: -10–0°C

    • Unclipped: light or medium weight turnout rug (150-300g) with neck cover
    • Clipped: heavyweight turnout rug (300-400g), plus a neck cover and a liner if needed

    Temperature: below -10°C

    • Unclipped: heavyweight turnout rug (300-500g) with a neck cover
    • Clipped: heavyweight turnout rug (300-500g), plus a liner and/or an under blanket and hood if needed

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