Horses love to be outside! Even in the depths of winter they relish cold dry conditions. Unfortunately we don’t usually have a winter wonderland, and instead have to provide shelter from driving rain and wind. Shelters, hedges and trees all help but often a rug is the most practical solution and protection from mud makes all the difference when fitting exercise into a busy week.
Unfortunately rugs create their own set of problems and now charities even issue advice against over-rugging. It’s sadly commonplace to see heavily rugged horses looking miserable on warm days. Overheating doesn’t only cause unnecessary discomfort but reduces movement and can cause skin complaints.
Our dilemma whether to rug or not to rug was solved by the coolheat rug, which allows the horse to regulate his temperature naturally. Smooth flexible inserts lift the rug off the coat to allow air to circulate or the hair to be raised trapping warm air when required.
This design means the horse is comfortable in a wide range of conditions, so there’s no need to keep changing rugs or worry if you can’t, and when the weather is particularly nice you can remove the rug without causing a massive drop in temperature.
The rug can also be put directly onto a wet horse and the coat will dry underneath.
The rug is well cut and very stable – the tail flap is particularly generous, and there is an optional neck cover. It has a 600d denier waterproof outer and is recommended by the manufacturer for use in temperatures up to 20°C (though we’d prefer that people consider this as an oops-the-weathers-changed maximum, and either opt for a fly rug or nakedness when the temperature is predictably this hot).
As well as being ideal for turnout it can also be used when travelling or between classes – you’d probably worked this out for yourself but we thought we should state the obvious in this world of single-purpose rugs.
Our thanks to the Royal horse Company from the USA for letting us use their video
Important: We recommend common sense be used when deciding whether or not to leave your horse rugged especially when the days start to warm up. As with any rug it should be removed and the horse checked over daily. Do not put on over lumps and bumps, sores or a gritty coat where the inserts might rub or press.
It is also important to realize that in damp weather, condensation will be trapped on the underside of the blanket and the blanket may feel damp. This is not a problem because the horse’s natural body heat will keep the horse warm enough. With traditional blankets the condensation is soaked up in the blanket the same as sweat and lays against the skin and this is what causes the problems.
If your horse has an unhealthy coat then there is often a build up of wax on the hair and the coat looks really dull with no sheen. The wax can build up on the insulators and cause friction so it is important to keep the insulators clean until the hair regains its health and sheen. To clean simply wipe the affected insulators with a damp cloth.
benefits of the coolheat
- your horse can effectively regulate its own body temperature preventing overheating and chills caused by fluctuating weather conditions.
- Can be used during and after competition allowing your horse to safely cool down
- After competition or a hard training session your horse can be washed down, rugged and turned out because your horses hair can effectively lift any moisture up off the skin with its natural wicking action which helps prevent chills and skin conditions
- allows air to circulate over the entire body, resulting in healthier skin and hence less itching, so a reduction in rubbing and hair loss and as a result a higher level of comfort for your horse
- no more hassles of the time consuming practice of putting on and taking off multiple rugs
- when your horse is turned out in the yard or paddock it effectively has the same benefits as if it is still in its stable
- If you are caught with a rug on your horse when the day unexpectantly warms up, your horse is allowed to sweat freely under the Coolheat aiding the cooling process
- you can rug a wet muddy horse as the mud will dry and dissipate under the rug
- your horse gets a free massage when it rolls
- provides a practical alternative to clipping
how does the coolheat rug work?
Now at last if you really have to rug your horses there is a healthy and practical option available.
The Coolheat rug has rows of soft plastic insulators which run the length of the rug and lift it 12mm or 1/2″ up off the hair of the horse which prevents the flattening of the horse’s hair and hence protects one of the horse’s natural warming and cooling procedures, known as “pilo erection”, a vital part of a horse’s thermal regulation process. Traditional rugs, no matter what material they are constructed of flatten the horses hair which seriously impedes pilo erection . This leads to many of the problems we will cover.
The sole purpose of the Coolheat is to shield the horse from direct rain or wind chill and so acts like a portable stable, while under the rug the horse controls it’s own temperature.
When your horse feels cold when wearing a Coolheat it raises it’s hair follicles using it’s pilo erection process and this traps the body heat against the skin which slows down the dissipation rate of heat loss from the body. It also mobilizes it’s other important “thermal regulation” processes.
The biggest misconception in the rugging world is what temperature the surface of the horse should be. When you place your hand under a traditional rug when the horse is standing still you feel a temperature which is nice and toasty warm – but if the horse is warm as toast when he is standing still then as soon as he starts to exercise he overheats. The surface should only be temperate bordering on the coolish side. Even though this may feel cold to us after feeling the previous warm toasty feel the horse is feeling adequately warm enough.
Muscle movement creates heat which is part of a horses thermal regulation process. So if the horse is warm standing still, with only minimal movement, when they move around they start to overheat and as a result they start to feel uncomfortable so move less.
A perfect example of this is with humans. It is a freezing cold morning when we leave our house and head to the stable. We are rugged up with three or four layers of clothes and we feel toasty warm and comfortable just like our traditionally rugged horses. But as soon as we start to walk a short distance, our muscle movement creates inner core body temperature, so in a very short time we start to feel uncomfortable and have to take off a layer of clothes. It is exactly the same scenario with rugged horses but unfortunately they cannot take off their rugs so the only option available to them is to restrict their movement and start sweating, which again, is part of their thermal regulation process to bring their body temperature back down to 38 deg.
what happens when a rugged horse sweats
When the horse sweats when wearing a traditional rug, the sweat is trapped against the horses skin. Then because the outside temperature is cold as soon as the horse stops moving the sweat cools and chills the horse. Sweat laying against the skin also causes skin conditions, which leads the horse to rub which results in hair loss and destroyed rugs.
These problems are prevented when wearing a Coolheat rug through “pilo erection”. As soon as the horse starts to sweat, pilo erection takes place. The horses hair, because it is not flattened by the rug, commences a wicking action which lifts the moisture up off the skin and onto the ends of the hair follicles and onto the lining which cannot soak up sweat so it is then dried off by circulation of the horses natural body heat, preventing chills and skin conditions. Exactly the same process occurs when a unrugged horse is standing around in the rain. Nature takes care of the problem quite adequately.
Another advantage of the Coolheat over traditional rugs is that when the day unexpectedly warms up and the owner cannot get home to remove their horses rug, as the horse starts to sweat, the Coolheat allows pilo erection to take place which cools the horse. Sweat is wicked up off the body but with traditional rugs the sweat is trapped against the skin creating an unhealthy humid environment.