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22May 16

A tricky spring for rugs: on... or off?

One of the joys of my job is, that I get to drive through the beautiful Cornish countryside and especially in this time of the year that is such a treat. Although it took some doing, with such a very slow and cold spring, yet again the fields are greener than anywhere else in the world, and livestock is munching away as if there's no tomorrow. I like to check out those fields and of course specifically the ones with horses and/or ponies in it. It surprises and even upsets me when I see some of them still rugged up in the same blanket they've been wearing for all those long winter months on a lovely warm day. 

Only a few weeks ago it suddenly got much warmer and drier at times. Now that I do all my training away from home and I only have one lovely little project in the field, a hardy 15.1 Tinker x thoroughbred who likes it outside far better than in a stable, I ponder every morning and evening what to do with his rug: on...or off. I admit, it is not easy this spring with the wet coming and going and the odd very cold night. Also the midges are playing havoc. But the temperatures are definitely up and for example the previous Sunday it was glorious sunshine all day. On a day like that I can not wait to pull that rug of, as, not only do I know that my horse loves that freedom, a roll and a run without any restriction, but I myself love watching my horse enjoying that freedom.

I know, I know, there's a downside. Mud caked all over if the ground is still wet and having to brush if the rug has to go back on again. But, honestly, isn't that why we've got a horse? Spending time with them with a brush in our hand is well-spent time, a time to connect with your horse, a time where you do the the work for once instead of him (or her).

In professional yards it is relatively easy. There is nearly always someone there to manage any situation. Most competition horses have limited time out as they are worked nearly every day, whereas others have switched by now and are out by night instead of by day and can wear a summer rug at night without any risk of overheating. But then, we have great weather forecasts these days, so it is possible for the general horse owner to make a safe decision in the morning before going to work.

A rug on a hot, sunny day can be as wrong as no rug during rough weather. Even if you don't see any immediate problem, involuntary sweating, because of basically being wrapped up in plastic, can cause skin irritation and summer colds. This is the time of year where a bit of rain during a night with temperatures in double figures, or a dry cold night, only helps your horse to not get too soft. Horses which are not worked regularly, need this rug-less time in order to move their coat, get some oxygen on their skin and enjoy that freedom of which they have lost already so very much. 


Dressage Training

Dressage training needs variety, including pole work

Dressage Training

Dressage training needs variety, including pole work

About Liz Barclay

Her love for horses together with her dedication made her into the trainer and dressage rider she is, today. She is versatile and inventive and likes a challenge; whether it is a technical training question, a confidence issue or a problem involving the management of the horse or pony.


My book 'THE FARMER, THE COAL MERCHANT, THE BAKER...' with the subtitle 'A Personal Impression of the Development of the Gelderland Horse World' has been received with more enthusiasm than I possibly could have hoped for. Click here to contact me and I will send you a copy. £7.50 + postage, or click here to order from Amazon.