How To Choose A Cover For Your Horse

What to Consider When Buying Horse Covers, and Fly Sheets

When choosing a blanket for your horse, you’re faced with many different choices to consider with a wide range of choices from fly covers, coolers to rugs for all seasons. Some have therapeutic properties, while others keep flies and dust off your horse‘s coat. Some people believe a horse should never be blanketed, while others have a complete wardrobe of horse covers.

Your choice of rug, sheet and exercise sheet will depend on various criteria. A good cover for your horse will ensure they are comfortable and therefore happy. A badly fitting rug will encourage them to roll or rub against posts or other objects to try and remove it, often causing damage to your cover in the process. The choice of rug is key to effectively protecting your horse from the effects of the environment, and ensuring comfort for your horse or pony. You’ll need to consider the breed of horse, fabric strength, filling weight, style, size and the environment it’ll be used in.

Horse Cover Weight

The first choice you’ll be faced with is rug weight. The majority of rugs vary in weight and cater for the season and location of the horse, whether he/she is indoor, outdoor, in an open field or sheltered area. It can be tricky deciding which rug weight to use. While a clipped-out and thin-skinned thoroughbred might need a weightier fill in the depths of winter, a more robust type or a part-native might swelter under so much insulation.

A lightweight rug can be used if you are mainly aiming to keep your horse clean and dry whilst he/she is out in the field. These rugs are good for the cooler summer evenings or during the spring and autumn. Medium rugs tend to have between 170 and 220g of filling, which is similar to what is located inside your duvet at home. The medium rugs are often used at either end of winter, however, it is worth remembering that some horses can cope with a medium weight rug throughout the full duration of winter.

There are also heavyweight rugs which are perfect if your horse has been clipped or if it tends to feel the cold. These rugs have over 300g of filling and the more your rug contains, the warmer it will be – obviously. If you’re not around to deal with covers on a warmer winter day, you might be better choosing a medium-weight cover to help with the really cold spells, but reduce the chance of overheating when it does warm up.

Remember, too, that each manufacturer’s definition of what is a light, medium, or heavy weight cover will vary a little, so ask how much fill you’re getting and what the outer shell is made of.

Colour Of Your Horse Cover

The colours that you choose for your horse‘s horse rugs will influence the amount of attention that they receive from insects. Insects can perceive colour in somewhat unpredictable ways. The shade of the colour in question matters, as does its level of brightness. For instance, white horses get less attention from Marsh flies, or horse-flies, than darker-coloured horses. However, the fact that horse-flies are less likely to bother white horses may not necessarily relate to the brightness of their fur, or even its colour. Bright colours tend to reflect much more light than they absorb, including ultraviolet radiation, which may explain why many insects like them.

Horse rugs that are dark red may be good choices for horse owners, since they won’t reflect as much light as the brighter colours would. However, there are two downsides. A dark red horse rug will attract more heat from the sun than a lighter coloured horse rug. Lighter green, cream or blue horse rugs are still less likely to attract the attention of insects than violet ones, even if dark red or orange horse rugs may be even better. The other main problem is that red will fade significantly faster than any other colour when exposed to the sun.

As a horse owner, it comes down to finding a balance between lighter colours that reflect more light (and absorb less heat), colours that don’t fade easily or show the dirt and that ultimately are aesthetically pleasing to look at.

Horse Cover Weights and Fills For Different Seasons

New Zealand crosses the sub-tropical and temperate zones. Our mountainous backbone creates wide weather extremes. Cold on its own is usually fine, be it a frost or a chilly breeze. Rain, too, need not necessarily be a problem. It’s the combination of rain and a brutal wind that causes problems. Horses with full winter coats can stay warm, without rugs, in temperatures well below zero. However, it is important to consider other weather factors, such as humidity, wind chill, and rain. When soaked, even a thick winter coat can lose its warming power, leaving your horse chilled to the skin. Similarly, stiff winds can lift the hair coat, allowing icy blasts to penetrate straight to the horse‘s skin. So, a horse that might be comfortable naked on a dry 20-degree day might appreciate a lightweight, waterproof cover if it’s windy or wet, even at a more moderate temperature.

Lightweight rugs are ideal for use in autumn or spring when the weather is variable and not too extreme. This time of year often requires horse owners to be flexible and they should be prepared to change day rugs for night rugs if time permits. Versatile light weight rugs can provide a solution to rugging more hardy, or hairy types through the winter; some have a fleece lining for extra warmth.

horse that is not warm enough will have cold ears, exposed hair will stand on end, he will stand tense and rigid and not resting a foot. He may also shiver and the tail will be clamped down. A horse that is too hot in his rugs will be sweating under his rugs, appear very restless and begin to breathe heavily.

Horse Cover Sizes

A rug naturally needs to be the right size, but how does it fit the horse? Each horse is different and each style and type of rug fits differently. The rug should fit well over the withers and the shoulders so that the horse can move freely without the rug slipping back. A rug which is nominally the right size will still rub and be uncomfortable if it doesn’t accommodate the body shape of the horse. However, the straps should be tight enough to hold the rug in place, but not so tight that they cause the rug’s shape to distort on the horse’s back. If too tight they may cause pressure points around the horse’s chest and wither area. Covers that are too big will tend to roll sideways and move back, creating undesirable extra drag about the shoulders. Covers that are too small will restrict movement, be uncomfortable, and create bad rubs.

Horses are sensitive animals that need to be protected from extreme temperatures and bad weather as well as mosquitoes, flies, and other irritating insects. The correct horse rug will help keep your equine friend at ease and in top condition at all times. For outdoor use, you need a rug that is breathable, and preferably also waterproof, so that the animal’s skin remains dry in the rain, as well as when it is cooling down after exercising.


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