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[RC] Rugs.... my opinions only! - Jay Randle

Hi All
Lots of queries and opinions about the use of rugs and the whys and wherefores of clipping have prompted this response.  So here's what I do, how I use rugs, and why I use them.....
I live at an altitude of 2000' in SE Queensland, in an area that would have a similar annual climate to Northern California.  We have 4 distinct seasons here, with hot summers and cold winters, but no snow.  Our endurance riding season is from March - October, or Fall/Winter/Spring.  The majority of our competitive rides are in Winter, with the season gearing up and winding down in Fall and Spring.
Even in Winter, the middle of the day can get warmish, but we do have frozen water buckets and cold blustery conditions too.  Winter in this area is generally dry, with little rainfall, although we can get occasional storms.
There are lots of riders here who do not clip their horses, however the majority do.  Of course, once a horse is clipped, you do have to be pretty careful about their shelter and warmth needs, and so rugs are used a lot!  In fact, most people in this area would rug their horses at night during Winter regardless of them being clipped or not... it does get very cold at night.  There are many warm Winter days when we take the rugs off though.
During Summer, my horses are not rugged at all... it is far too hot to do so.  The exception to this would be if a horse was particularly susceptible to "itch" which is caused by tiny biting mites that appear around sunset.  The most effective way to control this is by light rugging before the sun goes down.  However, in general, I do not rug at all from about October through to March.  Summer is our wet season, too, so rugs would just get filthy and heavy with mud!
As the season gears up in mid-March, I start by using a 'day sheet' with an attached neck rug (maybe this was what Leonard was trying to think of?).  This is called a "combo".  It is made of light flag-type material, and is primarily used to keep the horses clean!  These are used 24/7 unless it is a hot day, when they are taken off during the daylight hours.
By the middle of April the winter coat starts to grow in, so that is generally when we do our first clip.  I usually do a full body clip, but I leave the hair long under the saddle and under the girth, as well as from the middle of the forearm down..... to protect against scrub rubs and also to allow the legs more protection against the cold.  If the horse is prone to 'mud fever' we also trim out the 'feathers' behind the pasterns so that they are easily dried after each ride.
Once the horse is clipped, they gain the extra protection of a heavier, wool-lined long drop canvas rug that goes over their day sheet combo.  Depending upon the horse, this canvas rug may or may not have an attached neck rug.  Some horses seem to do better with a neck rug, but some over-heat with a heavy neck rug.  They all have a light neck rug on anyway.  The canvas rug is taken off during the day if the weather is warm, although it is left on 24/7 throughout the colder weeks (except when the horse is being trained, of course!).
At our rides the horses are always yarded in self-erected yards.... mine are all electric fence, although many people use steel or aluminium panels.  We NEVER tie up our horses to the trailer... there are no such things as HiTies used here!  The yards would generally be about 20' x 30' at minimum, although I like mine to be a big bigger than that if possible.  I pick my campsites carefully, and position my truck to take advantage of it as a wind break if necessary.  I generally take 7 or 8 horses to every ride.
Some ride bases are significantly colder than others, so we rug depending upon the weather there.  I have 'competition' rugs that are waterproof nylon with lovely soft warm poly filling, and with detachable neck rugs.  By monitoring the weather throughout the weekend at a ride base, we can rug or de-rug to suit!
By about mid-June we usually have to clip a second time as the hair starts to grow back in.  If it is a particularly cold spell, a woolen rug is added over the day sheet and under the canvas rug.  But it's been 3 years since I've had to do this as we've had a couple of milder winters recently.
During the ride itself, we are not allowed to present at a Vet check with tack on... all tack must be removed prior.  The horse comes across the finish line and is either walked or ridden directly to our campsite.  All tack is removed, and if the weather is cold, a wool rug is immediately thrown over the horse.  The pulse rate is taken, and depending upon that number, the rug is adjusted backwards (folded back onto the rump).  This allows access to the neck, withers and belly for cooling purposes.  Water is applied by a spray hose (battery powered), and is scraped off immediately.  The pulse rate is constantly monitored.  I don't apply water to the rump muscles UNLESS the horse is 'racing' for a win and needs significant cooling..... which is rare.
Once the pulse has stabilised (under 55 BPM for the first stage, under 60 BPM for subsequent stages), the horse is walked to the TPR (Temperature/Pulse/Respiration steward) bays.  This steward notes the pulse, etc, and then the horse proceeds immediately to the Vet for a general examination and trot up.  All this time the horse will have the rug on, but it may or may not be covering the entire animal.  Usually it is just covering the loins and rump, depending upon the weather.  Sometimes, in severe weather conditions, I may use the heavy nylon rug as well as have the hamstrings/rump being massaged!  Sometimes, if the day is really warm, I just throw a towel over the loins.  The rug/towel is removed for the trot up.
We must present to the Vet within 30 minutes of crossing the finish line on each stage of the ride, including the final one.
I have found that horses that are clipped are much easier to crew, are much easier to cool, and are much easier to keep warm as well!!  Because the hair dries very fast, with just a quick rub over with a towel, it is a simple method of controlling their body temperature.  We very rarely have cases of cramps in the rump.  In fact, I have only ever had one case of cramping from being too cold.
Upon returning to the campsite after a successful Vet check, the horse is cleaned off (any mud or grit) and rugged and fed during their hold period.  Our hold periods are a mandatory 30 minutes after the first 30 minute period... so a total of 1 hour in camp after each stage of the ride.  It doesn't matter if you get to the Vet within 5 minutes of arrival or 30 minutes of arrival.  You still have to wait for the full hour before you can depart on the next stage of the ride.  Your riding time is calculated from the time you depart to the time you cross the line upon arrival.
Any questions?

Best regards

Jay Randle

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