THERE has been a notable drop in temperature in the past week and it is very much starting to feel like winter. Every season has its own pros and cons for horse owners and winter is no different.
For horses staying in work over the winter clipping is a must. Clipping combined with the change of weather brings the need to think about what is the most suitable rug to have on your horse.
The trouble with this time of year is that the temperature during the day can be relatively mild but it can drop substantially during the night, this can result in horses needing rug changes throughout the day.
If your horse is out in the field all day choose a slightly lighter waterproof rug. They will be able to move around to keep themselves warm. If possible use a breathable rug so that if they do get too warm they will be able to cool down easily.
Try to avoid using your heaviest rugs at this time of year, it will most likely get a lot colder so save your heaviest rugs for the worst of the winter weather.
Rugs are expensive so if you are considering buying a new rug for the winter look into a rug that is breathable and can be used as an indoor and outdoor rug.
A lot of rugs now come with detachable liners which allows you to make the rug heavier or lighter as you see fit.
If possible, always use a liner and the one designed and fitted correctly to go with the rug. Liners usually attach at the shoulders and at the back of the rug. The danger with using a liner which is not correctly attached is that it can slip, causing both rugs to sit incorrectly or ,worse still, the horse can stand on the rug which may cause injury.
Detachable hoods are another good addition to rugs. They should always be fitted correctly and securely attached. Some horses will rub their mane with hoods so using a detachable hood means you can use it for the worst weather and not ruin their mane by having it on all winter.
Always make sure that every rug you use has a fillet string. A fillet string is the string which goes under the horse’s tail. This helps to keep the rug in place and stops the rugs from flipping over the horse’s back.
It is worthwhile to take good care of you rugs. There are a number of companies around Ireland who offer services to clean, repair and re-waterproof rugs.
It is recommended to get your rugs cleaned at the end of each season so now is the ideal time to get your summer rugs cleaned and store them away safely before you need them again next year.
There are a number of clips you can choose from to best suit your horse.
Clipping your horse during the winter makes life a lot easier for you and your horse. You will be able to keep your horse in more intense work and your horse will keep condition on more easily.
If you are trying to keep your horse in medium to heavy work without clipping them things can become more difficult. It will take them much longer to dry if they get sweaty and this can lead to them catching a chill and / or losing weight and condition.
Riding with a quarter-sheet or exercise, especially if you are doing light work or hacking out, is a simple way to keep a clipped horse warm. Always make sure your quarter-sheet is correctly fitted and secure, especially on a windy day.
The quarter-sheet should go under the saddle or be attached to the saddle safely and it should have a fillet string under the tail to it can’t blow up.
Remember if your horse is warm and sweaty or if you have washed them down, even if they are clipped, you should put a cooler on them to help them cool down.
If you leave a clipped horse without a rug to cool down on a cold day they might catch a chill – using a cooler helps bring the horse’s temperature down gradually and it stops the horse from getting very cold. Ideally a cooler should be left on for between half an hour and an hour, or until the horse is fully dry and no longer sweaty.
The full Horse Sense guide to clipping can be found on The Irish Field website.