A horse fleece rug is designed to help horses dry off and cool down slowly after exercise. When horses have been very active, their body temperature increases and they begin to sweat. The perspiration dampens their fur, and this can make them too cold when they come to rest and their body temperature falls once again.
A horse cooler rug will wick away the moisture from the fur to help them dry. Plus, it traps a layer of air between the rug and the horse, which provides insulation. The horse’s temperature therefore drops at slower and much more comfortable rate.
When a horse is not dried off properly before stabling and gets too cold, it must burn extra energy, warming itself up again. Horses are really good at regulating their own temperature, but it is their fur which helps them to do this. The hair stands up on end in cold temperatures to create a layer of air which warms up and insulates them.
However, when a horse’s hair gets very damp, this self-insulating system does not work. Instead, the horse begins shivering to raise its body temperature high enough that its hair can first dry out and then create this warm layer of air and a horse rug may need to be put on the horse. It takes a lot of energy to generate adequate heat, so if this process has to take place regularly, the horse could end up losing weight. That’s why rugging a wet horse is so important (or alternatively, putting a waterproof rug on the horse before going out in the rain may help).
A horse cooler rug is a rug designed specifically for helping horses to cool down slowly after exercise. Fleece is the most common type of material used for coolers and many deem fleeces to be the best cooler rugs for horses.
Fleece is a durable synthetic material that washes really well. You can simply throw a horse fleece into the washing machine and rest assured that it will come up clean without shrinking or getting otherwise damaged. Plus, fleece dries incredibly quickly, which makes it even easier to always have a clean, dry cooler on hand.
Another benefit of fleece is that it is incredibly efficient in drawing moisture away from the horse’s fur. The moisture rises to the surface of the fleece, where it evaporates. Thanks to the sweat-wicking properties of fleece and the horse’s body temperature, the inside of the rug soon becomes warm and dry in order to keep the pony comfortable.
Alternatives to a fleece horse cooler rug are wool and towel. Wool is a heavier material and best suited to very cold weather – this is often included in heavy weight rugs or winter rugs. However while heavier, it has the benefit of being durable, long-wearing and naturally antibacterial. Many people only use wool rugs as transport blankets rather than coolers because they’re too warm to use after exercise, but when temperatures are incredibly low, they might be a good option.
Towel coolers provide excellent rates of absorbency, but they are fairly thin compared to fleece. They’re often used after bathing to get the horse dry as quickly as possible.
The terms ‘cooler’ and ‘anti-sweat sheet’ are often used interchangeably to describe rugs which help to absorb a horse’s sweat and regulate its temperature. However, traditional anti-sweat sheets are made from knitted cotton with an open structure that provides air ventilation to aid drying. This helps to dry off a sweating horse but does little to provide warmth.
Anti-sweat sheets are therefore best suited for use after exercise on very warm days. Meanwhile, the insulating properties of a fleece cooler supports gradual cooldown as well as drying.
You should use a horse fleece rug after exercise, either when the horses are put away in the stable or turned out. If you apply one before turning out, be sure to add a lightweight waterproof turnout sheet over the top to protect them against the rain.
To minimise rapid cooling, it is always recommended to end a ride with a short walk to slowly bring the horse’s temperature down. You’ll notice that the horse’s breathing will gradually slow and the temperature of their skin will reduce. This process will take five to ten minutes, depending on the fitness level of your horse. If you really don’t have time for a cooldown, a horse fleece rug is particularly important to keep them comfortable in the stable. Plus, it will help to stop dirt, straw and dust from sticking to the horse’s damp fur.
A good tip to support your horse’s natural temperature regulation is to give them a quick brush before rugging. This helps to straighten out the hairs, which will allow them to dry out more evenly and will prevent matting.
You can use a horse cooler rug after washing a horse to help them dry off, even if they haven’t been exercising. This is particularly helpful during cold weather, as the horse will likely get very cold from being left damp, especially if they are in the stable and aren’t able to be very active to warm themselves up.
It is important not to apply too many warming layers to a wet or cooling horse. Doing so could actually cause them to get too hot and make them sweat even more, thus making it even harder for them to dry out. Do not use heavy fleeces during warm weather. You can always fold a horse fleece blanket and simply drape it over the horse’s most damp areas rather than wrapping them in it completely.
Many people use horse fleece stable rugs as an extra layer of warmth under turnout sheets in cold weather. They’re also handy for warming a horse up and helping their muscles to loosen before exercise when it is very cold outside. Be sure to keep the cooler on only when the horse is walking and take it off before you begin to gallop.
You can wash a fleece horse cooler rug or horse fleece blanket in the washing machine using a mild detergent and warm water. Do not use fabric softener as this will reduce its absorbency. It’s a good idea to put it inside a wash bag or duvet cover in order to stop the metal clips from damaging the drum.
Horses shiver to raise their body temperature when they get too cold, just like humans. It is perfectly normal and not something to worry about if it occurs for a short time, but if it happens regularly or for prolonged periods, they may need rugging.
Generally, it is not a good idea to ride a wet horse, as the tack could rub against the skin and cause damage. If it happens occasionally it shouldn’t be a problem, but it is always better to help them dry off with a horse fleece rug before tacking up.