Sally’s Guide to Managing Horse Rugs
Over the winter months, wet and muddy horse rugs are an ongoing problem.
Fleeces and sweat rugs are easiest to manage, especially if you are lucky enough to have a washing machine you can use to keep them fresh. A quick wash cycle at 40 degrees is usually sufficient to leave them looking good. Being lightweight they tend to dry quite quickly. In the absence of an alternative, they can be draped over a door or saddle racks to dry them. Dirty fleeces won’t be as effective at absorbing sweat as clean ones.
Under-rugs and stable rugs can also be washed in a domestic washing machine. As they aren’t waterproof they have no proofing to lose during the washing process (Standard detergent dissolves waterproofing). Being a little heavier than fleeces they can take longer to dry. An excellent facility for drying them is an electric rug drier but not everyone has the space to accommodate them and they aren’t cheap to buy.
A budget and more compact alternative is to invest in a hanging rug rack with swinging arms that folds back when not in use.
If you site it over a power point, a domestic radiator will easily dry the rugs overnight. Fasten up the neck straps or clips and hang them downwards on the rug hangers. Warning! Avoid the rugs making direct contact with the heater for safety reasons. Always ensure heaters are in good working order as old ones could present a fire hazard.
Tips for turnout rugs
Wet and soggy turnout rugs are another matter entirely. If you need to swap rugs and dry them, a line of strong cord or baler twine can be secured using robust eyelets at the back of your stable or field shelter. Ensure the cord isn’t slack as you don’t want your horse getting caught in it. Take care to place it tight to the wall of your building for the same reason. Horse rugs can be draped over this line with the inside of the rug facing outwards for easier drying. Some horses are a bit mischievous and may try to pull the rugs down when left to their own devices, so make your decisions accordingly.
Check for leaks
It’s worth regularly checking beneath your horses’ rugs to ensure they aren’t leaking. If they are only slightly damp inside it could be due to perspiration if your animal has been galloping around. Most rugs are breathable so this should only be an occasional problem. If it is happening regularly you might need to swap to a thinner rug. When the weather warms up, rugs will need to be changed accordingly.
If the rugs are actually wet inside, check for rips and tears. If the rugs are older the waterproofing may have worn off. This can often be remedied by getting the rugs professionally cleaned, patched and re-proofed. Be sure not to leave a horse in a wet rug as this can lower immunity and give rise to illness.
A sign of horses not being warm enough can present with weeping eyes and/or a runny nose. Every horse is different so look out for signs of any discomfort and pop your hand under the rug to check they feel a comfortable temperature.
Out with the old in with the new
When you get sparkling new rugs, consider giving your old discarded rugs to a local horse rescue centre. They are always grateful and it is a good way to recycle them.
Young and old horses tend to be more susceptible to cold and wet weather than others. Their rugs will need to reflect this.
Out with the old in with the new
Different breeds of horses have varying winter coat types. For example, Welsh cobs, have thick short hair interspersed with longer wispy hair. Connemara’s tend to have dense almost woolly coats whereas thoroughbreds don’t grow much winter coat at all.
Horses are individual just like humans. Some like to be wrapped up with many layers and neck covers over the winter months whereas others try to rub their coats off and prefer their necks to be uncovered.
If you clip your horse, remember to rug them up more to make up for the coat you have removed.