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The end of September heralds around three months of the Autumn season - think the first colourful tinting of oak or beech trees, the appearance of ripe sloes or elderberries, and the arrival of migrant birds, such as redwings.
For many of us, it is a favourite season - beautiful colours, mild days and the tail end of the competition season.
One downside of Autumn is the changeability of the temperatures - particularly tricky if you're trying to plan for rugging your horse! We also do the first clip in the Autumn months, which means that choosing when to rug (if at all!) and what rug to use, can be a challenge.
In the UK, the average Autumn temperatures are 9-15 Celsius, which of course is fairly mild. However many of us get caught out at the end of October and in November, when temperatures often sharply drop, and rainfall is prevalent. When combined with a clipped horse, this means we are often unprepared for the colder temperatures.
It is important to note that here at The Saddlery Shop, we don't advocate over-rugging! Whatever the weather, in an ideal world, I believe that we would not need to rug our horses. This ideal world includes suitable shelter, not just a hedge, that provides proper protection from the elements and is a safe haven for your horse. My ideal world scenario also includes suitable quantities of forage (whether that's good quality grazing or ad lib hay, as this forage acts as an internal heating system to provide warmth via digestion); and turn out that encourages movement.
But many horses are turned out in rugs in Autumn. A good example of a horse needing a rug is the sensitive, thin skinned Thoroughbred that may feel the cold if rain is persistent, the temperature has dropped, or the equine is clipped.
Of course, an equine with reduced immunity, that is suffering from pain in any way, or that has lost weight and is in poor condition, will certainly welcome a rug in wet, inclement Autumn weather. It isn't necessarily about the fact it is raining - but also the combination of the available shelter, the ambient temperature, and how long the rain persists for, along with the horse or pony's access to forage.
A tenuous guide in terms of whether to rug is to see how you as the owner are feeling - are you happy in a lightweight raincoat or are you laden with jumpers and a hat? Could you also compare the current temperatures and weather conditions to spring - would you be rugging in April, if the temperatures were comparable? It is best not to over rug and reaches for a heavier version of a turnout rug if it isn't required for the horse or pony.
Having made the comparison to human warmth, of course, we know that equines feel the cold completely differently to us. In general, if the temperature is between 5-25 degrees Celsius, the horse or pony can comfortably maintain their body temperature without feeling hot or cold. However, persistent rain can quickly leave a horse feeling cold and miserable. A wet horse in a cold wind will lose heat quickly, and will find it harder to stay warm. Although widely advocated as a means of testing equine warmth, feeling the horse or pony's ears is not a terribly scientific or accurate way to ascertain body temperature.
So, if you are choosing to rug your horse in Autumn, you may choose a medium weight rug. These are very popular with our customers, as they are also ideal for milder winters and cold spring days and nights. Medium weight rugs tend to range from anything between a filling of 180g and 240g. These are especially great for thin skinned horses that feel the cold. Look out for the rug's denier rating – the durability of the fabric and the weight of the yarn used; a higher denier means a more hard-wearing rug.