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In our work assisting horse owners, we frequently receive inquiries about temperature control for horses in the Southern Hemisphere. Thus, I decided to provide some insights on this topic here...


RUGS: While rugs have their place in providing weather protection for horses, it is intensely important not to overrug ANY horse at ANY time! But not to leave them to shiver either, so it's a case of finding a sensible balance.....


It is important for us to understand that horses are not simply large humans, nor do we need to treat them as such, therefore just because you might be freezing your butt off when out in the paddock with your many layers of clothing on, as sadly, most of us dedicated horse owners often endure, this doesn't mean that your horse is feeling the cold in the same way as you do-so feel his chest, and check under his mane for heat, as most of the time most horses will be ok without a rug.

Because as hard as that is to get your head around-it really is bad for the horse's health to rug them unnecessarily. This is because it prevents them from using their natural abilities to self-regulate their own temperature, by piloerection, which is to stand the hairs up in order to trap air within the coat to allow temperature adaption for meeting different weather conditions.

As over-rugging can seriously affect a horse's health, causing problems in their central nervous system, skin and core, as well as that of all of their vital organs.

You only have to imagine for a moment what it must be like to be naked from the waist down on a really cold day whilst wearing a woollen vest up top-it's not a good combination and causes confusion to the body to have two opposing temperatures, so this is also a very good reason on why not to over rug horses.

Plus horses just don't feel the cold like we do, as they hold heat far more efficiently than us due to their larger body mass along with their hardy coats, which even includes breeds that aren't always thought of as being weather hard such as the arabs, and some minis, and thoroughbreds etc... too 🙂

Therefore, the only risk of cold for most horses is if they get cold when they are wet, and soaked to the skin, which prevents piloerection of the hairs on the coat, and it is this that can have a serious consequence for their core temperature.

This is why you should not rug a wet horse, so please make sure to give them a really good rub down to dry them off before putting the rug on as wet skin and rugs can cause a lot of hassles and risk to health for horses and should be avoided at all costs.

Unfortunately, waterproof rugs are needed unless you can provide some shelter, in the form of trees, or offer your horse some weather protection such as by being able to get up against a wall or hedge perhaps ....and out of the driving rain and cold wind...or into an open-fronted stable, or barn you may need to rug…. along with supplying a source of fuel to make body heat 24/7 in the form of hay, which can be done in our slow feed hay nets-please see the link below for these, then this would be the correct time to rug.

But we ask for you to be aware that as a prey animal whose psyche is based on their ability to flee danger, a rugless horse is a lot happier and healthier for it rugs are too restricting for movement for most horses to enjoy wearing them...

So to recap for a healthy balance :

1- Rugs can be a good item of protection if used mindfully

2-Feed hay 24/7 in a slow feed hay net to supply a constant trickle of fuel to help your horse generate body heat to help keep them warm during cold periods, which also as an added bonus helps with good digestion and to reduce sugars otherwise being eaten in green grass 🙂

3-Provide shelter if possible and/or a light waterproof rug 🙂

4-Only rug when it's needed when it's actually cold for the horse, and not just when it's cold for us humans, as horses are way hardier than us 🙂.

5-Do not over rug-so no doonas or thick fills etc...unless you have an ageing horse or one who is low in body condition or is sick etc..🙂

6-be aware that clipped horses or old or sick horses may need to be rugged earlier than other horses during the colder months 🙂

7-Take the rug off regularly to check body condition and provide freedom and air for the horse's skin and to allow species-appropriate behaviours etc...🙂

8-The horse doesn't care about the trendy pattern on the cover so don't fall for the marketing hype-buy a good rug based on its practicality.

9-Please remove the rug when the weather improves 🙂

10-Do not leave your horse to shiver at any time 🙂

We hope this will help you achieve the balance regarding rugging for happier horses 🙂



See our link for slow-feed haynets 🙂

Natural Horse NZ

rug info.jpg
Our horses getting tucked under the trees to protect them from the cold
Gandalf doing well in his winter coat-see how cold it is by my daughters clothes and our horses are coping fine without rugs in minus 1 conditions but they do have shelter and 24/7 access to hay so it’s about finding a balance
Otto shown sheltering in one of our field shelters, whilst eating hay from our slow-feeding haynets for fuel to help him generate body heat to keep warm
Building open fronted shelters to allow the horses to come and go as they please is what we decided upon for our weather protection
These are called Cool Heat Rugs , which use an intelligent design that has rubber stoppers to keep the rug off the horses skin-they are the best winter rugs in my opinion...highly recommended
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