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Q: I have seen turnout rugs made out of a “metallic” material designed to reflect heat away from the horse’s body — great for unseasonably warm days — but how much does the colour of a horse’s turnout rug affect his temperature? Will my horse’s dark-coloured rug make him uncomfortably hot on sunny winter days?
TN, Fife

Speaking to some of the leading rug manufacturers we discovered they do take colour into consideration in the production process.

According to Clive Davies, managing director of Premier Equine, a lot of testing is involved with the company’s fabric suppliers.

“Dark colours like navy and black, that we use a lot, are very important in the turnout market, especially for the winter,” he explained. “Black and navy can absorb any heat that may be around from the winter sun which works very well with the horse’s natural system.”

However, like many of the companies we contacted, the quality of the fabric, waterproofing and breathability was more important than colour in the Premier Equine range.

A spokesman for Mark Todd rugs explained that the colour of its rugs is determined “more by fashion and public demand rather than for any scientific reason”. However, its hot weather rugs — such as fly sheets — are made in a light-coloured mesh which deflects heat and UV rays that can bleach the coat.

Weatherbeeta hasn’t done any specific testing but “dark colours absorb more wavelengths of photons [light] than lighter ones,” said a spokesman. “When the rug absorbs photons, they are converted into energy [heat], making darker colours warmer during sunlight. That is why we avoid them for spring.

“We currently don’t use any fabrics with metallic properties — they are usually in the lining rather than the outer fabric.”

Nigel Ziff of Matchmakers, producers of Masta rugs, said the company has also embraced the use of metallic materials in lining.

“Metallic threads have been woven into lining materials such as nylon which come into direct contact with the horse’s skin,” said Nigel. “The thread is claimed to improve blood circulation. There are also lining materials with interwoven metal threads to help reduce static.”

Currently, fashion and practicality dictates the choice of colour at Masta.

“However, there are some benefits to be had using lighter colours, which tend to reflect bright sunlight, so most of the summer collection features light, bright colours rather than dark colours which will absorb it.”

Bucas produces a metallic Power Turn Out rug that is said to offer superb heat reflection through its aluminium coating and silver outer. The technology of the fabric means heat can be reflected or retained, so is said to provide the perfect temperature whatever the weather.

Information

www.bucas.com

www.masta.co.uk ;tel: 01274 711101

www.weatherbeeta.com

www.premierequine.co.uk ; tel: 01469 532279

Mark Todd www.wefi.co.uk ; tel: 01303 872277

This Q&A was first published in Horse & Hound (12 February, ’09)