Horse owners have been reminded to be mindful when considering how to rug their horses this autumn and winter. As the days become shorter and nights draw in, many of us reach for our jackets when we head outside, but this doesn’t necessarily mean we should do the same for our horses.

There are many factors to consider when buying a horse blanket and before deciding on whether or not to put a rug on a horse or pony, or how heavy that rug should be, but it is important to remember horses do not feel the cold in the same way humans do, according to the British Horse Society (BHS).

“A healthy horse doesn’t tend to feel the cold until the temperature falls below 5°C, above this they are able to keep themselves warm without using too much energy,” a charity spokesman said. “Therefore, it’s important we don’t rug our horses based on how cold we are feeling.”

Over-rugging can leave a horse uncomfortable and exhibiting signs similar to colic. It can impact on the condition of their coat and increase their chances of skin disease and irritation. Inappropriate rugging can also make weight loss more challenging.

World Horse Welfare stresses the importance of mindful rugging.

“Horses have a much wider thermoneutral zone than us,” they said. “This means that they really don’t feel the cold in the same way that we do – the ambient temperature range in which a healthy adult horse can easily maintain their body temperature is between 5 and 25°C.”

Both organisations noted that temperatures can fluctuate greatly this time of year, so although first thing in the morning it might feel cooler, a few hours later it can become very mild.

They suggested keeping an eye on weather forecasts and considering changing your horses rug from day to night, or taking it off completely at certain times, if this is suitable for your horse.

“Please remember that all horses are individuals and just because one horse needs a rug, another may not,” the World Horse Welfare spokesman added. “And equally, just because your horse doesn’t need a rug, another horse may need one”

The age, breed, health, body condition and whether or not they are clipped, should all factor in to your decision, as well as the weather.

For more information on choosing whether to rug and/or which rug to choose for your horse, visit the BHS website.

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