Safe rugging advice as winter kicks in

DON’T HAVE THE CROSS SURCINGLES TOO LOOSE
Horses commonly get their legs trapped in the cross surcingles because they are too loose. They should fit snugly to the horse’s belly, with just enough room for the flat of a hand to slide easily between the strap and the belly.

ALWAYS USE A FILLET STRING
The fillet string stops the rear of the rug blowing up over the horses back when it is standing with its back to the wind. It should not hang low or the tail will come outside it when the horse moves around. If you find the tail outside the string, you need to tighten it or attach it higher up. If the tail comes outside or if the fillet string is broken or missing, horses can be suddenly startled by the rug blowing over their backs, and they rush forward, even going through fences. Also, the fillet string stops the neck piece from sliding forward on to the horse’s head. We have seen two cases where horses have been blinded by the neck piece coming over their eyes, in one case with fatal results.

BEWARE OF WITHER INJURIES
Horses with high withers and little muscle around them are at risk of developing severe damage to the skin over the withers (see photo) unless the rug fits perfectly. Wither injuries are common where the rug is too big and it slides backwards, causing the upper edge to press on the withers at the top. Always check for any sensitivity to finger pressure on the withers. This is a warning sign and must be addressed immediately. Sensitivity can be checked without removing the rug, simply by pressing down on the withers with the fingertips. The horse should show no reaction to this.

IS IT TRULY WATERPROOF?
Rain scald is very common in out-wintered horses wearing ‘waterproof’ rugs. Although often attributed to condensation under the rug, this seems an unlikely cause as the underside of the rug is warm. It is far more likely to be caused by a leaking rug.

BEWARE OF ELECTRIC FENCES
Hungry horses and ponies soon realise that the rug protects them from being shocked by the fence, and they lean over it to get to grass on the other side. They can be become entangled in the fence or impaled by the poles. A quick way to deter this is to sew a piece of electric fence tape to the inside seam of the neck and allow the free end of the tape to dangle in front where it will contact the fence.

CHECK THE FIT AT THE SHOULDERS
It should be possible easily to slide a hand inside at the front and down over the shoulders. We have seen the buckles injure the skin where the rug was too small and too tight at the shoulders. Conversely, if the rug is too wide at the shoulders it slips backwards and can cause shoulder rubs.

ADJUST THE LEG STRAPS CORRECTLY
Leg strap rubs are common. It should be possible easily to pass a hand between the leg straps and the inside of the horse’s thigh, but they should not be too loose. The straps should always loop through each other.

ALWAYS REMOVE THE RUG FREQUENTLY
Don’t assume everything is okay under there. Remove the rug frequently to check for rubs, rain scald and other problems.

 

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