Under The Horse Rugs – Too Hot Or Too Cold?
The horse rugs are a wonderful thing. So many colours, designs and thicknesses. When weather is temperamental and switching from hot to chilly in the space of a few hours, it can be hard to decide whether to use the horse rugs you have.
If your horse has been allowed to grow a natural coat and they are well-fed and healthy, they can withstand most weather extremes. If allowed a natural environment a horse will choose the best-sheltered place to stand during a storm.
Horses’ coats have two layers. You can see the top layer lays in a downward shape to help water run off the coat. Meanwhile, the undercoat stays dry and fluffy. If it is cold and snowy, a healthy horse will accumulate a layer of snow on his/her back that tells you they are retaining warmth as the snow is not melting.
A horse with adequate hay or grass creates warmth by feeding the bacteria in the gut and they warm from the inside out. Putting a rug on a horse crushes the hair loft and causes a horse to actually lose heat toward the outside. While this may or may not be retained by the blanket itself, when the blanket is removed, the vital loft and air layer are lost and a horse will chill. If the blanket causes sweating or is otherwise dampened, it only adds to heat loss.
How To Do A Temperature Check
Feel under the rug. If the horse is sweating, it’s too hot. If the horse is not sweating and it’s not getting wet from the rain then a well-fed rugged horse with decent shelter should not suffer too much from the cold. Observe its behaviour. Does it hunch up looking miserable all day or is your horse happily grazing? You should recognise normal horse behaviour to see if your horse is distressed.
Any horse owner should spend time with their horse, therefore becoming aware if something feels “off”. Things to watch for are:
- A change in its normal behaviour.
- Observe its respiration rate for increased movement.
- Take their pulse.
- Get a thermometer and check its temp. If you do not have one handy, feeling their armpit is better than nothing.
If you know what is normal for your horse then you will detect subtle signs of illness or distress. A horse is a prey animal and will instinctively hide signs of illness or pain. Showing illness or pain makes it a target. It’s your responsibility to know if all is not well.