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What is horse blanketing?

Monday 5th October, 2015

Horse blanketing, or ‘rugging up’ is the practice of using blankets or rugs to provide your horse with warmth and protection against the elements, or to aid cooling and recovery after exercise. Using horse blankets or rugs in the winter is a somewhat contentious issue and leaves the equine industry divided as to when and where they should be used. Some experts say that blankets should never be used on horses as they believe that they affect the growth of the winter coat and hamper the horse’s natural protection, whereas others believe that rugs offer protection to a horse’s coat and can actually promote growth of the coat.

Horse blankets vary in size, shape and material. Heavy breeds such as cobs and draught horses
will require a lighter blanket than their fine breed counterparts. Arabs and Thoroughbreds have thinner winter coats and benefit from heavy waterproof padded rugs or blankets with added neck extensions to ensure they are thoroughly protected from the harsh winter climes. A heavier horse on the other hand may be quite happy in a lighter waterproof rug to keep them dry, or even be turned out with no blanket at all providing there is adequate field shelter available.

There is no obligation to rug or blanket a horse, however regardless of their breeding, most horses are stabled at night in the winter months. Again there are different blankets or rugs available to be used in the stable, as once in the dry there is no need for waterproofing. Therefore stable blankets are softer, more close fitting quilted blankets that offer much needed warmth and comfort in the stall.

Every horse generates their own longer and thicker winter coat which elevates and flattens to trap a layer of air against the skin. The horse’s own body heat rises and warms the layer of air insulating the horse on the colder days. Cold temperatures cause horses considerable discomfort which rapidly saps their energy, and the rain flattens the winter coat’s insulating layer of hair, therefore blanketing makes a big difference to your horse. Blanketing or rugging is considered necessary for competition horses who are routinely clipped to reduce sweating during exercise and also in veteran horses who may have lost some condition and require extra care and protection in the winter.

The shape and fit of a horse blanket is very important as an ill-fitting blanket can cause bald patches and even sores as it rubs the horse’s skin. Although conformation can affect the fit of even the most tailored rug, there are so many styles and shapes on the market that you are bound to be able to find one to fit your horse. If in doubt check with a saddlery store expert who will be able to advise on correct fitting.

Another huge benefit for horse owners who choose to blanket their horse is that they have less grooming to do. Winter weather brings with it rain and mud, which can turn even the best drained pastures into a quagmire, and as a result a horse’s thick winter coat can quickly become caked in mud and clay. A blanket will keep the neck and body covered and save time for busy horse owners when they bring their horse in from the field each evening.

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