Ensuring your horse has everything it needs to be healthy is a top priority for all owners. You’ll do everything from choosing the best horse feed to maintaining their coat with regular grooming so your horse stays in tip-top condition all year round. When it comes to the summer, you may be faced with the dilemma of whether to put a rug on your horse. Keeping your horse cool during the summer is clearly key for their welfare but rugs can have other benefits such as acting as a barrier to flies and biting insects.
Keeping them dry so you can ride
One of the main reasons for putting rugs on horses when they are turned out is to keep them clean and dry so you can ride. Afterall, we know it rains in the UK in the summer months and horses are very good at creating a mud patch to roll in to maximise how dirty they can get! Even a lightweight rug will act as an insulating layer and can result in horses getting too hot. If they sweat when wearing a rug it can increase the risk of rubbing and chafing and, like humans, keeping cool uses energy. The hotter the horse gets, the more energy they will use to cool down. Whilst we don’t want an underweight horse to get cold, do be sure they really need a rug as they will burn energy keeping cool too.
Insect Bites And Sunburn
A legitimate reason to put a rug on a horse in the warmer weather is if they suffer with a a condition called Sweet Itch. Many companies now produce rugs called fly sheets or market them for sweet itch sufferers. They are very lightweight but act as a barrier to the midges that bite horses that cause an allergic reaction. Not every horse has the reaction but those that do react literally rub themselves raw as the irritation is so great. The rugs offer some relief from this horrible problem and may mean some horses that would otherwise have to be stabled, get to enjoy more time out in the paddock.
Another thing people worry about in the warm weather is sunburn, and some horses may be more prone to it than others. Horses that have white or pink areas of skin will need to be watched as they’re likely to become sunburnt if in direct sunlight for too long. As well as turning them out later at night, you can fit them with summer sheets or hoods so that they have some protection.
If the temperature changes
Chillier spells can occur in spring and summer months and poor doers, veterans and those that have been clipped may actually get quite cold. Keep an eye on the weather forecast and try to use a rug appropriate for the conditions. Equally, try not to over-rug those that are overweight in colder spells as they can afford to use some of their surplus energy to keep warm!