How to rug your horse in summer
Why do people rug horses during summer?
As summer approaches and temperatures start to increase, we are all faced with the dilemma of how to rug our horses effectively to keep them both comfortable and show-ready. So what types of rugs are available for use in summer, and why do horse owners use them?
To Protect From Insects
In some areas, particularly in humid areas, biting insects can cause issues for some horses (particularly those that are 'thin-skinned' such as thoroughbreds).
The type of rug required for complete insect protection depends on both the horse and the insects in question. A sensitive horse that is being attacked by small insects (such as sandflies or midges) will require a rug that affords complete block out. Such as a light cotton.
For horses that are less sensitive - or for locations that are prone to larger biting insects (such as march flies), a fly mesh rug is an excellent option. The advantage to these rugs is that they prevent irritation from insects whilst also providing better airflow than a cotton rug - thus keeping your horse cooler.
To Prevent Coat Bleaching
For those planning to compete over the summers months, or for people who are concerned about the appearance of their horse's coat, a summer rug can help combat coat bleaching.
Generally this is a problem with darker coloured horses (especially dark bays, browns and blacks). Sun bleaching leaves the hairs lighter, duller, and rough to touch. When showing a horse with a bleached coat, it is very difficult (if not impossible) to produce a good shine on the coat.
A light cotton, fly mesh or flag rug is the best choice to prevent sun bleaching. These rugs are designed to keep the sun off whilst still allowing airflow.
These light rugs (especially a light mesh or flag) will also often keep darker horses cooler on warm sunny days then they would be if left without.
Wet Weather Protection
We all know through summer, we're likely to get thunderstorms or scattered rain. Rugging during wet weather in summer can be a challenge, because you don't want to leave a heavier rug on your horse at all times - he will overheat!
The best option is to try and use either a rainsheet or an unlined canvas rug, as these allow rain protection without the warmth factor of a lined winter rug. Put this on your horse just before rain, and remove once the weather clears.
It is important to note that although these rugs are breathable, this breathability is generally reduced to zero once water cover's the fabric's 'pores'. In warm, wet weather, this means your horse can become 'sticky' and uncomfortable. In this instance a light cotton rug can be placed under the waterproof rug to wick away some of the moisture.
In saying this, if it's still very warm, most horses are better off being left 'naked' with no rugs on at all, rather than potentially overheating under a waterproof rug.