When to Change to a Winter Horse Rug

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With the arrival of Winter, your horse may appreciate an extra layer of insulation to keep them warm in cold temperatures, wind and rain. However, if not monitored carefully, over- and under-rugging your horse can have consequences for their health and wellbeing.

 Just like us, every horse is an individual, so changing your horse’s rugs will depend on a range of factors, including the weather, their lifestyle and their overall health.


Horses possess a natural layer of insulation: their own thick Winter coat. But, wind chill and heavy rain can penetrate. If persistent wind or rain is affecting your horse, a lightweight Winter rug may be suitable.

Likewise, if your horse has recently been relocated to a colder climate, they may need an additional layer until they acclimatise. A cold horse will most likely be standing stiff, with hindquarters facing the wind, cold ears and hairs standing on end.


If you have chosen to keep your horse’s coat short for competition, a Winter rug may be necessary. Select a well-fitting turnout rug that insulates your horse without creating too many bulky layers. Excess layers, with multiple buckles and leg straps, can be potential hazards.

To ensure your horse doesn’t overheat, you should routinely check for perspiration under your horse’s rug, particularly around the ribs. A hot horse will appear agitated, restless and unusually  thirsty.


Winter rugs may be essential to protect against the elements if your horse is young, old or ill. However, correct rugging is only part of managing your horse’s health.

To keep your horse healthy during Winter, you should also ensure they have unlimited access to forage, water and shelter, with space to move freely.

If your horse is feeling the cold this Winter, a Winter rug to suit their needs, along with careful management and nutrition, will keep your horse warm, happy and healthy.


  • Dr Louise Cosgrove

    The founder of Exclusively Equine Veterinary Services, Louise is driven to support horses in their recovery from injury or illness. A graduate of the University of Queensland, with international equin...

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