How to Decide Whether Your Horse Needs a Rug

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When the weather gets cold, many horse owners dig into their collection of horse rugs to find something to keep their horse warm and dry. But does your horse really need a rug? In order to decide whether your horse needs a rug, consider the following factors.


Depending on where you live, the temperatures may not get to the point where your horse truly needs a rug. Many horses can adapt just fine to lower temperatures, as long as they have shelter and a windbreak.


Horses can deal with cold weather, but adding on rain or snow can make it more difficult for them to stay comfortable. You may find that your horse does just fine when there is no precipitation, but when snow or rain are expected you may need to add on a rug to keep him dry. Again, this depends on the individual horse.

Your Horse’s Coat

Some horses grow thick winter coats that are sufficient to keep them warm in all temperatures. Other horses, often those of the hot-blooded breeds like Thoroughbreds and Arabians, don’t grow much of a coat at all. A horse with a thinner coat is more likely to need a rug if temperatures get too cold.

It’s also important to consider whether your horse is clipped. A clipped horse will definitely need a rug during colder weather, since you have removed his natural form of insulation.

Your Riding Activity

Sometimes, owners opt to put horse rugs on their horses in order to keep their horses from growing thick winter coats. This can be particularly helpful if you plan to keep your horse in intense work throughout the whole winter. However, once you make the decision to rug your horse, you need to stick with it throughout the entire winter. If you plan to only ride occasionally, or only ride lightly, it may be wiser to let your horse grow his natural coat and just be sure to schedule extra time to cool him down properly after each ride.

Finding Quality Rugs

If you decide to rug your horse during the winter, you will need a few different rugs, including a lightweight turnout rug and a medium weight turnout rug, at minimum. Even if you don’t plan to rug your horse, having a rug or two, including a cooler, on hand is always a good idea just in case. You can find horse rugs from any number of different sources; be sure to look for sales to help you save additional money.

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