Rainrugs and winterrugs for horses are a much-discussed topic in our horseworld. There are people who are fiercely anti-blanket because they believe that every horse should be able to do without a blanket. That every horse automatically produces enough coat and that the winters in the Netherlands (and other parts of Europe) are not so extremely cold, so that a rug is not necessary. That is partly true, but it is all a bit more nuanced. Here is our vision on blankets!
Point 1: Every horse is different!
Some horses really bloom in the winter, are completely in their element and enjoy the cold and the season. Some horses find shelter at the first splash of rain, with their heads down. And that is not because they are spoiled by the owner, but because the horse prefers a certain type of weather. They’re just like people sometimes 😉 . Why not provide the horse that is fed up with rain with a rug that improves its mood and then enjoys being outside?
Point 2: Not every horse makes a thick winter coat.
Nowadays, more and more horses from warm countries come to Europe to live here. Sometimes horses are not used to the temperature falling below 15 degrees in a year. They hardly know how to create a winter coat, so they are not resistant to the cold and wetness. There are also horses, born in Europe, who only produce a thin winter coat of their own. Our colleague Marjolijn’s horse, for example, is a cross breed of a Friesian x Tinker, but is almost as smooth in winter as in summer. The mare does have a lot of hair, but it’s all very short. So where one horse is an exploded teddy bear, the other horse is extremely short in the hair.
Point 3: Not every horse is healthy enough.
An important reason to choose a rug is the reduced health of your horse. Older horses often have a harder time keeping themselves warm or they lose weight too quickly in the winter. A horse may have been ill, have reduced resistance, have been muscle-bound in the past, etc. All reasons to still opt for a rug.
Point 4: Cold is usually not the problem.
Perhaps this is the most important point to choose a rug for your horse. Cold is often not the problem for horses, especially dry cold. That is a matter of giving enough roughage and then horses will quickly feel comfortable. But in some parts of Europe and the United Kingdom there is rarely dry frost. It is always windy and/or raining, sometimes with a little snow. And that rain and wind quickly makes the weather unpleasant for horses. A horse can still handle an afternoon / day of rain and wind, but if this lasts for days, this is an enormous attack on the horse’s constitution.
Point 5: Sometimes shaving is the best option.
If a horse is shaved/trimmed, it cannot do without a blanket. Unless you have only shaved a small part and the back is completely unshaven, then it is still doable provided the temperatures / rain are not too bad. But in principle you have taken off your horse’s coat, so you will have to replace it with a blanket. For some horses, shaving is really the best option. If they always sweat a lot during work and are difficult to dry, shaving is sometimes the best option.
Point 6: Being overweight says nothing about being comfy and warm
We often hear that horses can lose some weight and have enough fat to keep themselves warm. Unfortunately, this is not entirely true and the point of “sufficient roughage” also comes into play. Horses that are too fat are often put on rations, so that the internal stove does not burn continuously. These horses can get really cold. Also, being overweight says nothing about how comfortable the horse is. The cold can hit the muscles, causing the horse to cramp and then the layer of fat makes no difference.
Point 7: It is a choice that the owner makes.
We as the owner of our horse are the only ones who can decide and determine whether our horse has a rug on. Not a website, not a forum, not the stable owner, not your stable mates, not the vet, nobody. As a horse owner, we see our horse(s) every day, we see how it behaves after the rain or a cold night, we feel how it moves and we see whether the horse is happy with the cold. As a horse owner, we are therefore the only ones who can determine whether or not our horse gets a rug on and how thick the rug will be.