The (tongue-in-cheek) beginner’s guide to winter rugging

  • At this time of year, horses grow thick, woolly coats to keep them warm. Their owners promptly pay to have all that fur clipped off  so the horses don’t overheat while they are working. Then they have to spend large sums of money on rugs to keep the horses warm while they aren’t being exercised. (Non-horsey people have been known to raise a cynical eyebrow at this.) Sara Walker explains how it all works…

    1. Turnout rugs

    These are waterproof outdoor rugs, designed to protect against the elements. You’ll need at least an A-level in science to understand all the features of the modern turnout rug. Sir Edmund Hillary conquered Everest with less technology that this at his disposal. Also known as New Zealands, they come in every conceivable weight, size, style and colour, but regardless of how many you own, you can be sure you will never have exactly the right rug for the current weather conditions.

    2. Stable rugs

    The equivalent of equine pyjamas, stable rugs come in nearly as many options as New Zealands. The only thing you can be really sure of is that the amount of money you spend on a stable rug will be inversely proportionate to the amount of time it stays clean before your horse covers it in poo.

    3. Cooler rugs

    These are a sort of equine dressing gown, ideal for those awkward in-between times when your horse’s coat has started to grow back and you haven’t saved up enough to have it taken off again. Your woolly horse risks getting sweaty every time you work him, which means you can’t put his New Zealand straight back on afterwards. There’s a solution, though — all you have to do is wrap him tenderly in his cooler rug, walk him round a bit, leave him for a few hours then come back at midnight and rug him up properly.

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    4. Exercise sheets

    A sort of portable New Zealand, these rugs are designed for riding in when it’s exceptionally cold or the weather looks like rain. After all, you daren’t let your horse get wet or you won’t be able to rug him up when you get back (see point about cooler rugs), while horses with chilly backs can be rather more sprightly and exciting to ride than we might like them to be.  Still, on the bright side, at least you won’t have to think about fly rugs for another few months…

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