The nights are drawing in and after a long Indian summer there is a chill in the air. So what rug should you put on your horse in autumn?

There are a number of factors to consider when picking the right one.

Thermoregulation

The first thing you should ask yourself is, does your horse need to be rugged at all? Horses maintain their internal body temperature through thermoregulation. This is an efficient system of anatomical, physiological and behavioural mechanisms that ensure the horse’s body temperature stays between 5°C and 25°C.

Humans have a much narrower thermoneutral zone (25°C to 30°C). So when we think it’s cold outside, horses will still feel comfortable. It also much easier for a horse to warm up (thermogenesis) than it is for them to cool down (thermolysis). So think twice before you reach for that cosy middleweight.

Protection

However, there are exceptions to the rule, when your horse will appreciate some protection from the elements:

  • If your horse is clipped
  • Your horse is elderly
  • He is a lighter breed
  • He has limited access to grazing
  • He doesn’t have much shelter in his field

Rug slowly

It’s always best to start with a lightweight rug, around 100g in weight. The weight refers to the amount of fill used. A medium weight is around 200g and a heavyweight is 300g and upwards.

According to Tom MacGuinness from Horseware it takes around 10 days for a horse’s metabolism to acclimatise to wearing a rug, so rug them slowly.

To check how warm he is feel inside the rug behind the withers. If it feels cold, he may need a thicker rug. If it feels damp you should remove the rug or use a lighter weight rug, as its likely your horse is too warm.

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