To rug, or not to rug?

I have to admit, I have been prone to over rugging in the past. My horse Jack didn't even grow a winter coat in the end because he was always wrapped up. I was into getting every weight of both turnout and indoor, we literally had a rug for every temperature and humidity. We had silver lined, wool lined - the lot.

It's got me thinking. How good is it for the natural flora of the horses skin to rug? We are increasingly rugging all year around. With lightweights and fly rugs.

We are seeing increased skin problems in horses. Dry, reactive, sore skin types are now not uncommon. Is it a man made problem? Some of these issues are down to breed and type - but is our obsession with 'wrapping them up' not helping?

I'm more and more in favour of letting the coat change without interference. Sure, when it gets really cold and with clipped horses rugging is essesntial - after all, we clip to maintain coat condition with exercise. However, in summer, fly rugs must feel a little uncomfortable for horses to wear in the heat, and the skin can't breathe. I guess we have to weigh up fly bites against letting the skin do what's natural. With lightweights being a 'mack' it's possible they are more for us humans mentally keeping our horses out of the elements. Have you ever worn a rain mack against your skin? It's quite sweaty and uncomfortable.

When it comes to spring and we take their rugs off there's often grease build up, bald patches and tons of scurf. This is because actually, wearing a rug isn't natural for an animal. However, with the modern equine being kept in a stable, exercised regularly and clipped - rugs do serve an important purpose.

I'm not asking you all to go naked and natural - but maybe on that ever so slightly fresh Spring day, just leave the lightweight over the stable door, let that skin breathe and encourage a good roll!


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