When Does Your Horse Need to Wear a Rug?
You might be feeling a bit chilly but does that mean that your horse is? Horses are very different to people in the way that they feel and tackle the cold. Winter will get you reaching for those turnout rugs but are you using them too soon? It is important to ensure that horses do not get too cold or too hot but how do you tell?
The Equine Thermoneutral Zone
The thermoneutral zone is the temperature range between which a person or an animal feels cold. But that zone varies between species. Humans have a narrow thermoneutral zone of between 25 and 30°C. We might feel chilly without our clothes on when the temperature is below 25°C and we start to feel hot, even without our clothes, once the temperature reaches 30°C.
Life is very different for horses. Their thermoneutral zone is 0°C to 25°C. So you can’t decide whether or not your horse is cold based on how you feel. It is perfectly possible for you to be shivering when your horse is feeling quite comfortable.
Holding on to the Heat
Horses retain heat much more efficiently than people do due to their coat. They will lose heat from the skin, through breath, faeces and urine, and through contact with colder surfaces. However, clipped horses lose heat at a faster rate.
Horses’ bodies generate heat by breaking down food and this helps them to maintain their core temperature. Their metabolic rate naturally increases when required to help with heat retention. If they get too hot, then they burn off less calories and can start to gain weight.
Making the Right Judgement
So keeping warm is a bit of a balancing act for the horse and for you when it comes to using rugs. You can’t tell how cold your horse is by feeling its ears, face or legs. These areas of the body are poor indicators of how warm a horse actually is. It is better to place your hand behind the withers. If this area feels cold, then your horse might benefit from a rug or an additional layer if they are already wearing a rug. If the area is damp or wet, your horse is too hot.
If they are not clipped, most horses will not need a rug at all until temperatures drop to 5-10°C. Older horses, young horses and clipped horses may require protection sooner.
Need a new rug or under rug? Check out at Equi Supermarket.