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As winters draw to a close and horse owners are getting drowned in piles of hair as the 'winter woollies' fall out, many of us look forward to a time of easier equine management.
During this time period, however, it is important to give due consideration to how we should rug our horses and ponies during the changeable and somewhat unpredictable spring weather.
Spring, like autumn, can bring mixed weather, seeing cold nights and in some areas, frost followed by glorious days with clear blue skies. Or on a damper note, we often have those horrible, wet rainy spring days that are still quite warm. When you don’t have the luxury of living with your horse or pony 24/7, what do you do to ensure he is as comfortable as possible, in terms of when to rug up and when to put the horse rug away?
No horse owner can predict the weather accurately enough to get it right every day, so sometimes we must make the decision based whether the horse would be better being a little cold at night but cool and comfortable during the day, or better being cosy at night but a little hot during the day. Horses cope with the cold or the heat differently, so get to know your horse’s needs in terms of temperature, when contemplating spring rugging. There is no magic formula but analyse the type of horse you own i.e. a thin skinned Thoroughbred or a hardy Welsh pony, and assess the temperatures and wind chills you’re experiencing before working out which horse rug to use - one with a lining, a lightweight turnout rug or summer sheet with no lining, or no rug at all!
Remember that the most important way your horse regulates his temperature is by sweating, so when the days are warmer it is very important to ensure that the rug you have has the greatest breathability available. If your horse’s skin cannot breathe properly, you will risk him over-heating, dehydrating or developing skin problems.
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 autumn - would you be rugging in October, if the temperatures were comparable? It is best not to over rug.
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.