When the temperature starts to drop, we need to start thinking about keeping our horses warm through the winter. There are a few different options when it comes to horse rugs, but which one is best for Australian conditions?
This article discusses the differences between synthetic and canvas horse rugs and describes what you should look for when searching for a quality rug that's right for your horse. We also provide reviews of some of the best Aussie horse rugs on the market for winter wear.
Why Do Horses Need Winter Rugs?
Horses are naturally insulated animals, and they don't typically need a lot of extra warmth, especially in Australia. However, a horse sometimes needs a winter rug for protection against the cold weather and elements.
Horse owners often rug their equine companions when:
- Temperatures or wind chill are low enough to cause discomfort
- It's raining, windy or snowing
- To keep the coat short enough to compete on the show circuit
- When the animal is very young or a senior
- To lower the cost of feed during cold months
- To help horses with compromised immune systems stay healthy
- To comfort a horse who has moved from a warm climate to a cold one while it acclimatises
- To help keep coat and body condition for competition
Horse rugs are a relatively easy and inexpensive method for keeping your horse warm and dry, even when the weather turns grim.
Synthetic and Canvas Rugs
When it comes to horse rugs, there are two main types: synthetic and canvas. Synthetic rugs are usually made from polyester or nylon, and they offer a number of benefits. They are generally lightweight, easy to clean and often come in a variety of colours and styles. Synthetic rugs are also quite versatile, which makes them a popular choice for many horse owners.
Some synthetic rugs include attachments for additional liners, so you can vary warmth levels through the year, making them great spring, autumn, winter or summer rugs. Many synthetic options also include a neck cover or detachable neck rug for complete coverage.
On the other hand, canvas rugs are made from natural materials such as wool or cotton and sometimes offer greater insulation than synthetic rugs. They are also typically very tough, breathable and flexible. You can usually add or remove layers of under-rugs as needed to regulate temperature. However, canvas rugs are heavy and sometimes hard to clean. They can also hold moisture instead of repelling it unless you apply waterproofing treatment regularly.
So, which type of rug is best for Australian conditions? In Australia, the weather can change rapidly, and horses can easily get too hot or too cold, which is why it is important to have versatile protection.
We typically recommend synthetic rugs thanks to their wind and water-resistant designs, lightweight construction, ease of maintenance and versatility. However, choosing a rug suitable for your horse's individual needs is essential.
Choosing the Right Rug for Your Horse
Horse's winter coats usually consist of a layer of long, coarse hair and a layer of fine, downy hair. The long, coarse hair protects the horse from the elements, while the downy hair helps to keep the horse warm.
If your horse has a thick coat of hair, it may not need a heavy winter rug. A lightweight synthetic or canvas rug may do the trick. If your horse has a thin or clipped coat, however, it may require a heavier rug that offers better protection.
Your horse's activity level will also affect the type of rug you choose. If your horse is stabled during the day and only gets turned out for a few hours, it will not need the same level of insulation as a horse that lives outside in the pasture 24/7. As mentioned previously, elderly, young and immune-compromised animals also need different levels of protection than strong and healthy horses. You should consider your horse's specific needs before buying a rug.
Once you have decided which type of rug is best for your horse, you need to choose a size that fits properly. It is vital to take accurate measurements of your horse before making your purchase, as an ill-fitting rug can cause rubbing and discomfort. We also have a comprehensive article on choosing the right rug size for your horse.
How to Tell If Your Horse is Too Hot or Cold
Most horses shiver when cold, and you may notice a chilly horse tucking its tail. Direct touch is also a good indication. If a horse is wearing a rug but feels cool underneath its rug or shivers, it may need a thicker rug.
If you are not sure whether your horse is too hot under a rug, there are a few things to look for. Hot horses will often have wet or sweaty necks, and they may be restless or pawing at the ground.
Horses who are overheating may also have a higher than normal heart rate. Overheating is dangerous, so be careful not to rug your horse too heavily. If you suspect that your horse is too hot, we recommend removing the rug and cooling the animal down with a fan or cold water.
The Best Horse Rugs for Australian Winters
Now that you know what's essential in a winter horse rug let's look at some of the best options on the market.
Here are our top picks for the best horse rugs for Aussie winter conditions:
The Horze Avalanche Winter Combo 350g is a full-coverage, synthetic horse rug that's perfect for keeping your horse comfortable and well-insulated on the coldest winter days. It is made from 1200d polyester square ripstop, which means it is somewhat weighty but easy to clean, and it's available in a variety of sizes.
This heavy rug includes a fully attached neckpiece, so your horse gets coverage from its poll to its tail, and it's water-resistant and windproof. It also has conveniently removable leg straps and taped seams for extra moisture protection.
It is an excellent choice for horses who need outstanding protection against Aussie winter conditions. With proper care, this thick and durable rug will likely last for several years. See all our Horze rugs.
The Zilco Crusader 200 Combo is an affordable option for those looking for a rug that will keep their equine companion snug and cozy on wet or cold days. This rug is made from synthetic materials that make it water-resistant but breathable. It's designed for optimal comfort with a fleece poll protector, satin lining in the neck and shoulder areas and a contoured fit.
To ensure warmth, the rug includes a 200g polyester fibre fill that offers protection even in frigid conditions. This cold-climate horse rug is cost-effective and includes a 1-year warranty. See all our Zilco rugs.
The Zilco Explorer 200 Combo is an excellent winter horse rug for Australian conditions. Made with a polyester ripstop outer, this synthetic rug is waterproof and contoured to the horse's body. It's also affordable, making it a good choice for those who need a full-coverage winter rug on a budget.
It includes a 200g polyester fibre fill that improves insulation, and its fleece poll and wither protectors increase comfort. A nylon lining also allows for long periods of wear. The Zilco Explorer 200 Combo is available in several sizes to suit various horse breeds. And to give buyers peace of mind, this medium-weight rug comes with a 1-year warranty.
The Horseware Amigo Bravo Plus is a stylish and well-made rug that is perfect for Aussie conditions. Its enduring synthetic materials are waterproof and windproof. It's light enough for autumn wear, but its 250g fibre fill can keep a horse comfortable during colder months.
If the 250g fill doesn't offer enough insulation, it also has a detachable neck rug with a 150g fibre fill and liner loops that make it possible to add a 100g, 200g, 300g or 400g liner to the rug for significant protection from the cold.
The Bravo Plus has been designed with a front closure system that makes it easy to put on and take off. The Horseware Amigo Bravo Plus has a slightly higher price point than some of the other rugs we've mentioned, but its versatile design and quality materials increase value.
See all our Horseware Ireland rugs.
The Green-Line Turnout Rug is an ideal choice for eco-friendly horse owners. Made using recycled plastic bottles and other recycled materials, shoppers can buy it with either 100g or 300g of insulation. Its inner lining is constructed with recycled fibres and has a soft, silky feel, and its outer lining is made with recycled plastic bottles to protect from harsh weather conditions.
It can be purchased in a range of sizes. The product includes magnetic fastenings, shoulder darts, bindings and straps that create a secure but comfortable fit. Horse owners can buy a Combi Neck rug add-on to improve coverage and overall protection if necessary.
See all our Bucas rugs.
The fashionable PEI Titan 300g Turnout Rug with Neck Cover works well for mounts who need superior protection from cold and wet conditions. The ballistic nylon outer and 300g thermo bonded fill will keep the animal warm and dry, even in bad weather. The rug also has attachments that allow owners to add rug liners and a 200g neck rug for extra protection from the winter chill and elements.
It has an antibacterial polyester lining, fleece lining at the withers and a distinctive waterproof system that regulates temperature for maximum comfort. Convenient velcro fastenings and straps make it easy to remove and put on. Finally, it's machine washable and dries naturally, so cleaning is simple.
The Titan is a relatively high-cost but well-made rug that should last for years. It includes a large variety of features to make it comfortable, warm and hygienic, and it comes in a complimentary zippered storage bag.
See all our PEI rugs.
Still Not Sure Which Winter Rug to Buy?
Keep in mind that some horses don't require stable rugs or weather protection. In fact, it's sometimes best to keep your equine friend unrugged to prevent overheating.
If you are still unsure which winter rug to choose, we recommend discussing your questions and concerns with your vet. Your vet may be able to recommend a specific rug or give you peace of mind about your choice.