Does your horse keep coming in with a rug that’s in tatters? Horse behaviour expert, Sarah Clark, shares her ideas for protecting your horse’s wardrobe.

If we’re assuming there isn’t a pesky nail head on a favourite scratching post, or a barbed wire fence that could be catching your horse’s rug, then it could well be another horse in the field doing the damage.

The good news is that the tattered rug is unlikely to be the result of any dominant behaviour. If there are no playful youngsters about and your horse isn’t harmed, it may be down to mutual grooming.

Mutual grooming occurs when horses have an established relationship. It’s very relaxing and can lower their heart rates too.

Consider the possibility that an overzealous ‘friend’ may be attempting to groom your horse and the rug is getting in the way.

Rugs and masks can hinder a horse’s body language, which is how they communicate 99% of the time and mutual grooming is a natural instinct that can’t be changed.

But it’s also not feasible for all horses to go rug-free, especially during winter. Instead you can try to change your field set up.

If you find out rug vandalism is due to mutual grooming, try to discover the identity of the other horse too.

How to stop rug wreckers

Step 1: If there’s the option to, try turning your horse out in a different herd without his ‘grooming buddy’.

Step 2: If space and safety permits, use good electric fencing to separate the field into two parts with a channel of a few feet between.

As long as there’s still shared grazing that allows social interactions for welfare, this will prevent your horse’s rugs being ripped.

Good to know

Take the time to observe your horse in his field to watch how he interacts with other horses. Is he happy and relaxed, or is he being bullied?

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