Shetland ponies are particularly adept at regulating their own body temperature, which they do through a process known as thermoregulation. Shetlands use physiological mechanisms – such as their thick coat, which acts as an insulator, and their ability to generate heat through their digestive system – as well as certain behaviours they’ve adapted in order to stay warm.
While wild Shetland ponies are quite capable of keeping themselves cosy, domesticated ponies have a different lifestyle and therefore may need a little more help. The RSPCA Knowledgebase explains that wild horses move far more than those that are domesticated, meaning that kept horses and ponies may be less able to generate heat through exercise. As a result, they may require a Shetland rug to keep them warm. Domestic ponies do, however, live longer than their wild counterparts and this is often due to the care that they receive from their owners. This includes using a miniature horse rug when necessary.
If you own an older pony
Just like elderly humans, older Shetland ponies are not quite as good at maintaining their body temperature and may need extra help to stay snug in cold or wet weather. A mini Shetland rug could be the solution.
If your pony suffers from IBH
While robust breeds such as Shetlands shouldn’t usually be rugged in summer, if your pony suffers from IBH, or Insect Bite Hypersensitivity, also known as ‘Queensland Itch’ or ‘Sweet Itch’, a miniature Shetland rug worn in warmer months (particularly through the midge season, from April-November) can help to protect them by shielding them from bites and therefore reducing the amount of irritation.
Top tip: if insect bites are a real issue for your pony, consider using a fly mask or horse hood alongside Shetland rugs UK for extra protection.
If your Shetland pony has been clipped
Your Shetland pony may need to wear a rug in cold temperatures if their coat has been clipped. Unlike other breeds, Shetland ponies aren’t commonly clipped, especially in winter when sweating is unlikely to be an issue. There are, however, some situations in which clipping a Shetland might prove necessary. If your pony is overweight or suffers from a medical condition, clipping could be beneficial – and in this case, a Shetland rug or miniature horse rug might help to keep your pony warm as the weather begins to change.
If your pony’s movement is restricted
If your pony is unable to move normally, due to old age, illness or injury, they will not be able to stay as warm as their muscles will not be able to generate heat through exercise. In this case, a mini Shetland rug may be recommended to help keep them cosy.
If your Shetland pony has pale skin
If your Shetland pony has a light coloured coat or areas of exposed pink skin they will be particularly vulnerable to sunburn. A lightweight Shetland rug, or fly rug, worn outside on a bright day can help to prevent this and might also reduce your pony’s risk of developing skin cancer.
If your pony is frequently ridden
If your Shetland pony is ridden often or gets a large amount of exercise, a therapy Shetland pony rug could help to increase blood flow to their tired muscles and joints, relieving stiffness and soothing any aches and pains.
There are many different types of Shetland rugs for sale in the UK, with several designs that are particularly well suited to Shetland ponies. Below you’ll find four of the most popular styles of miniature Shetland rugs for sale, along with an explanation of where and how they are used.
Shetland pony turnout rugs are designed to be worn by your Shetland pony while they are outdoors. Turnout rugs are usually waterproof and come in a variety of different weights – from light rugs for the summer months to heavier rugs that your Shetland pony can wear in the coldest temperatures, or even during snowfall.
Shetland pony stable rugs are designed to be worn when a pony is indoors and unable to move around enough to stay warm. These rugs aren’t waterproof and are often constructed from a padded or quilted material. Stable rugs also come in a range of different weights to suit your pony’s needs.
Perfect for ponies that suffer from IBH (Insect Bite Hypersensitivity), these lightweight rugs are designed to cover your pony’s neck and body during the summer months, creating a barrier that protects them from biting insects. While these lightweight rugs shouldn’t have much of an effect on your pony’s temperature, they do have the added benefit of protecting your pony’s coat from the sun. Shetland pony fly rugs can also help to decrease coat bleaching in dark-haired ponies and prevent sunburn and skin cancer in those with lighter coats. These can be paired with a Shetland pony summer rug.
Therapy rugs are specially designed to keep your horse or pony in top condition by reducing muscle tension and aiding their recovery after strenuous periods of exercise. Particularly beneficial for horses that are frequently ridden, these rugs sometimes utilise magnetic fields to help to improve your pony’s circulation.
Magnetic therapy rugs for Shetland ponies feature rows of magnets that are strategically placed over the pony’s main muscle groups. The electromagnetic fields generated by these magnets then help to increase blood flow to the muscles and joints, reducing any stiffness and promoting faster healing.
As well as electromagnetic therapy rugs, infrared therapy rugs and massage rugs are also available. Infrared therapy rugs work by capturing your pony’s escaping body heat and redirecting this back towards their muscles, while massage rugs use vibrating panels to improve blood flow to the areas that need it most.
Shetland pony rugs are specially designed to fit the small stature and broad body shape of your Shetland pony. They are also available in the weights most commonly required by Shetlands.
When putting a miniature Shetland rug on your pony, it is important to keep them calm and to ensure that the rug fits well to prevent any rubbing or soreness. This should also be the case with any show rugs or any other type of rug for your pony.
Over-rugging, or putting a Shetland rug on a pony that doesn’t require one, can lead to a range of equine health issues. If you aren’t sure whether your Shetland pony requires a rug, seek further advice or speak to your vet.