Often when autumn hits you see horses with rugs on in the field. Last year in Ireland, it was incredibly mild (we didn’t get a hard frost till the new year). Putting a heavy rug on early in the Autumn can be detrimental especially if we get a bad winter/spring, so please read on and be realistic and ask your self does your horses really need to be rugged at this moment in time.
Before rugging – early Autumn
Sort out your rugs in order of relevance and size and take note what you have. For example : No fill, 100g – light, 200-250g middle weight and 300g + heavy weight.
For example, if you’ve a no fill in autumn chances are you’ll need a middle weight around October and a heavy weight for winter especially if clipped. So, it’s great to be ahead of the game and have rugs sorted in advance!
Not to rug
- If the horse/pony is obese, unclipped and lives out with shelter (even natural trees/shrubs) your animal should not require rugging unless conditions are getting below -3c. Winter can be a good time to lose a few kg’s before spring and eliminate the possibility of obesity or killer laminitis.
- Horses have a lower thermoneutral zone TNZ (horses 0 – 25 degrees vs human 20-35 degrees.) This means that horses don’t feel cold unless below 0 (some will argue its 5 degrees) and they feel warm once reaching 25degrees.
- If your horses have shelter and adlib hay/grass this will provide heat through digestibly energy and will help keep your animal warm. Therefore, no need to rug.
- Elderly, sick or underweight horses will require rugging mainly to keep dry and act as a wind breaker. Although young stock can’t tolerate the cold as well as older/seasoned horses, it’s not always advisable to rug them for safety reasons. I ensure young stock have the best sheltered field and plenty of forage & feed which will in term help there keep warm – fuelling their internal furnace.
- Clipped horses and horses in work.
- Particular breeds. For example, thoroughbred horses could feel the cold at 0c but a native Connemara pony many not feel the cold until -4c. Therefore, although both types may be in the field together the thoroughbred may require rugging before the pony or at least have a greater fill rug.