Winter Turnout: Rug or No Rug?

Horse Rug

Thankfully, by this time, horses winter coats are usually fully-grown in. Healthy horses with fully grown winter coats usually do not need additional protection in the form of a rug. However shorn horses, older horses, ill horses, or horses that tend to get cold easily, may benefit from the extra protection against the harsh, cold, damp winter weather and icy winds. The type of rug needed will depend on individual temperature sensation of your horse, breed, type of shelter, exercise, and coat length.

You may be freezing but remember not to compare your own temperature with your horse’s. They are usually able to cope with the cold weather much better than we are.

A general rule of thumb to go by

  Shorn Unshorn
Transition Period Unlined Turnout Rug  n/a
15+ to 0 ° C 100 to 150 g  n/a
0 to -15 ° C 300 to 400 g 50 to 100 g
From -15 ° C 400 to 500 g According to warmth requirements

Characteristics to look for when buying a turnout rug. 

  • Tear resistance – rugs with higher denier number (600+) are stronger and suitable for horses kept in herds or open stables.
  • Breathability – Sweat should be able to be let out through the rug to keep a climate underneath the rug stays warm and dry.
  • Waterproof – you’ll notice once you begin looking around that there is a ‘water column’ description for each rug. This simply tells you how waterproof each rug is. For example, a water column of 3,000 mm/m² means that a cylinder with a height of 3m filled with water can be placed on the fabric for a period of 24 hours before the water penetrates the fabric. 3,000mm is considered especially waterproof!
  • Neck height – high neck rugs have the advantage of spreading the rug weight over the withers as well as providing extra protection for the neck. You can also find removable neck covers.

    winter horse rug

How to check if you have the right rug.

  • Check the tips of your horse’s ears to see if they are cold and if they warm up after a few hours.
  • Place your hand between rug and croup: if it is cold your horse might be cold, too.
  • If the climate under the rug is hot and sweaty, your horse is far too warm and needs a rug with less padding.

Making sure your turnout rug fits.

You want to make sure your horse’s rug fits properly to avoid chafing and provide free movement. Here are a few tips to know if a rug is a good fit for your horse.

  • The rug should sit snugly with no unwanted creases that could let moisture through.
  • If your horse is restricted in its freedom of movement, experiences hair breakage or chafes, the rug is too small.
  • Chest extensions are available on some rugs for horses with a broader chest.
  • If you reach under the rug and it fits securely and is not too tense, the fit at this point is perfect

horse blanket for winter

Now it’s time to go get your horse a rug so you can have peace of mind, they can be warm and get to spend more time turned out! A win for everyone!


Learn more about winter horse care tips here. 


Like this blog? Share with your friends so their horses can stay warm, too!

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