First, the sciencey stuff about horses and how they regulate their body temperature. They are so different to humans and its often forgotten that horses come from some of the coldest, and hottest places on earth. Unlike us they don’t need a coat as soon as they see a crispy brown leaf on the floor!
The horse’s temperature is maintained at 38c with the help of skin temperature sensors and the Hypothalamus. 38c is within the horses wide thermoneautral zone, where the horse needs no active control of its body temperature, if it falls out of this zone it is then at a critical temperature where we may consider helping it out with a rug. However a horse is adapted well to controlling its body temperature, through mainly the same ways we as humans do:
Facts about sweating (to be considered ALL year round):
As owners you are probably snuggled in jumpers and coats whilst reading this, or snuggled up by the fire, and you're probably STILL even thinking about how your beloved horse possibly needs another rug on….or does he?
A horse will feel cold when the temperature falls below 0c, obviously we are talking about a naked, unclipped horse here but its defiantly something to think about. To keep in the heat your horse may increase its metabolic rate, meaning if your horse has come out of summer a little bit too soft and squidgy in some places, it may be worth leaving them un-rugged to lose some of that weight, and get your huge wooly mammoth back to that competition horse you were sure you owned.
When cold, a horse will also drop its extremities, ie its lower limbs to a colder temperature in order to keep heat in, meaning that feeling a horses lower limbs may not give you the accurate reading of its body temperature you thought you were getting. Lots of factors affect how much heat is lost, including the weather, size, age, diet, breed, coat, shelter, and just them as an individual. So, if its raining outside, with lots of wind, and you own a 13hh, clipped, Arab pony, who is 25, with a low fibre, high starch diet, a thin coat, outside with not much shelter, then yes please do go put some thick warm rugs on! However, if you have say a 16’2hh, 6-year-old, huge (read as fat) Warmblood type, with a fibre based, low starch diet, and a stable at night, then you probably don’t need to be rugging. The smaller you are the easier it is to lose heat, the older you are the less control you have over your body temperature, if you have a low fibre, high starch diet, then you will not be generating as much heat, and the skinnier/finer bred you are the less heat you can retain from that diet.
The risks of over rugging include:
How to know when to Rug: