Summer rugs are designed to provide a very light, breathable layer of protection in warm weather. They are not quilted and therefore do not offer any insulation, which is ideal in hot weather when horses can become overheated and begin to sweat when turned out in quilted rugs.
Many mini Shetland summer rugs are waterproof and help to stop horses from getting wet in showery weather.
Shetland ponies are very good at regulating their own temperature thanks to their thick fur. In winter, their hair stands on end to trap a layer of air that keeps them warm. In summer, their temperatures drop significantly overnight in order that they can stay as cool as possible throughout the day. Mini Shetland pony summer rugs are designed to offer an incredibly thin layer of weather protection without inhibiting the natural ability to regulate temperature.
A major benefit of summer rugs is sun protection. Ponies and horses are susceptible to sunburn just like us humans. Their fur gives them a certain amount of protection from UV rays, but horses with very light skin are particularly susceptible to burns.
Furthermore, the sun can bleach their fur which may be particularly undesirable for those who show their ponies. Lightweight mini Shetland summer rugs are a simple but effective way to prevent this.
Light rain protection
Rain is another factor to consider in summer. Shetlands tend to handle the rain very well; their thick fur helps them to stay warm even when they’re wet so that they can dry off fairly quickly. However, very small ponies or those which are sick or old might benefit from some protection from the rain if they seem to have a hard time drying off or warming themselves up.
It might also be important to provide waterproof protection to ponies that are set to tacked up and exercised. Tacking up and riding a wet pony can lead to skin damage, so if you want to ensure your Shetland is dry enough to be ridden at a moment’s notice, you can rest assured that a light summer sheet will protect them from unexpected showers.
Keep your pony clean
Summer sheets are also a great way to prevent horses from getting grubby when turned out. Although mud may not be too much of a problem in summer, dust often is and this can cling to fur and cause staining or irritation. People who show their Shetland ponies might find it particularly important to use summer rugs to reduce the need for frequent bathing. Not only is bathing a time-consuming process, but when done too often it can strip natural oils from a pony’s skin and fur, and inhibit their ability to regulate their temperature and stay dry in damp conditions.
Although many people deem summer rugs suitable for outdoor use, some use them for Shetlands when they are in the stable. Since mini Shetlands are fairly low to the ground, they can pick up muck, straw, dust and other debris from the stable floor. In order to minimise the frequency of bathing, it might be helpful to use a very lightweight rug that will keep the pony clean without causing them to overheat.
Reduce irritation from insects
Mini Shetland pony summer rugs are also a handy way to keep flies and insects at bay alongside Shetland pony fly rugs. Flies can be a source of irritation for ponies simply from landing on their fur and tickling them. However, irritation is worsened when it comes to biting insects. Bites from gnats, midges, mosquitos, horse flies and stable flies can cause itching and swelling for any pony.
Plus, some horses are hypersensitive to insect bites and can experience more extreme reactions such as hives, hair loss and dermatitis. A light summer rug or fly rug is a great way to provide ponies with as much protection as possible from bites in order that their skin doesn’t have to suffer.
Comfort and freedom to run
If your pony is set to be turned out, they might benefit from a summer rug that has shoulder gussets. This ensures they can move about freely in order to gallop and roll in the field. Interior linings might also be useful for reducing the risk of the rug rubbing at the withers or chest and causing irritation.
Some summer rugs are machine washable since they are so thin and lightweight. This might be an important factor if your pony is set to be in a location that is particularly muddy or dirty. It is not always possible to clean rugs in the washing machine because they can do damage to the drum, but machine washable rugs are incredibly convenient for busy lifestyles.
Adjustable straps are a great feature to look out for, particularly if your pony is in between sizes. This is the case for any horse rugs. It’s always better to opt for a size up rather than a size down in these cases. The sheet should overlap at the pony’s chest and comfortably cover their entire belly. When straps are adjustable you can achieve an excellent fit and reduce the risk of the rug rubbing or shifting around as the pony gallops.
To choose the right rug size for your Shetland pony, simply use a soft tape measure and measure horizontally from the centre of their chest to their rump. This is for UK sizing, which is measured in feet and inches. European rug sizes are measured in centimetres along the horse’s back, from the withers to the tail. An alternative method is to measure another rug if you already have one that fits the pony well. Lay the rug flat and measure its length.
Removeable neck covers
Finally, consider whether you’ll want to use a neck cover in addition to a summer rug. Neck covers and hoods are handy for keeping insects away from the sensitive skin on a pony’s neck and head. Some summer rugs feature fastenings at the neck where covers can be attached. You can also find rug and neck cover combinations which are a convenient way to ensure the cover will always fit and complement the rug.
Shetland ponies are built for harsh weather conditions and many do not need rugging because they can manage rain and dramatic temperature changes well. However, a light summer sheet will help to protect them against flies, insects and dirt without making them overheat.
Their weather-hardy nature makes Shetland ponies suitable for being turned out all year. Make sure they have shelter and shade available for extreme weather. When ponies live out, rugging can help to keep them clean and comfortable.
Shetland pony rug sizes range between 3′ and 4’6”. The breed varies in size quite a bit so it’s important to measure the pony before buying.