How to take care of your horse’s winter rugs –
Are you prepared?
So, spring and summer are approaching rapidly. At last, you’ll be able to get rid of those heavy, muddy turn out rugs and bring out the much lighter rug options. But are you ready? Do you have a plan for your winter rugs? How will you clean them? Do they need reproofing? Have you prepared storage?
Taking good care of your horses winter rugs as the spring approaches is important. Turn out rugs aren’t cheap and although they look pretty sturdy can easily become unusable if not maintained correctly.
Why it’s important
Taking care of winter turn out rugs is important for their longevity. You may think that it’s ok just to place them in a tack room during the summer months ready for later in the year. But the truth is, they need to be prepared and stored away correctly if you plan to use them again.
Rugs can become very dirty out in the muddy fields during winter and if stored in such a state will begin to smell and grow mould. You will find that many turn out rugs get destroyed during the winter months, rips, tears and worn stitching are all real possibilities. A tatty or damaged rug will fail to serve its purpose when you need to use it again. A dirty or broken rug will not be beneficial for your horse either and may leave them feeling uncomfortable.
Turn out rugs tend to lose their waterproofing abilities over time and this is something you will also need to consider. They will not be able to keep your horse sufficiently dry and away from the elements if the proofing is compromised which could leave your horse wet and uncomfortable.
Unfortunately, turn out rugs require regular maintenance and do not take care of themselves. This is why it is important you put a care plan into place.
Tips for taking care of your horse’s winter rugs
Check out some of the great tips below to ensure your horse’s rugs stay in tip-top condition and are ready for you to use once the cold weather sets in again.
Cleaning by professionals
It may seem like a big job getting your horse’s heavy turnout rugs clean and tidy. The good news is there are many professional cleaners on the market that specialise in this type of cleaning. These facilities usually have big industrial washing machine that is ideal for horse rugs. They are usually able to get even the most soiled rug sparkling clean without you having to do the hard graft yourself.
Most professional establishments use cleaners specifically designed for horse rugs. They will usually leave them to air dry after cleaning to ensure the rug keeps it’s natural shape and size. Some even have heated rug airers to speed up the process.
Many horse owners opt for this option as the service is easy to use and leaves their rugs sparkling clean ready to be stored away. Professional rug cleaning services are usually not too expensive on the grand scale of things although if you have a whole collection of rugs to maintain (which you more than likely do) the cost can add up quite significantly.
Cleaning at home
Some owners opt to clean their horses winter turn out rugs at home themselves. Although much more labour intensive and time consuming it can work out to be much more cost-effective than taking them to a professional cleaner. You certainly have to be prepared to get stuck in and put in some work yourself.
There are many types of rug cleaning chemicals that can be bought on the market for use at home. Which one works best will usually be a case of trial and error. However, you should expect them all to work roughly in the same way.
Cleaning a rug at home is relatively easy however one of the most difficult parts is the drying element. It is likely that at the point in the year where you are looking to store your rugs away the weather is not necessarily dry yet and therefore this can make it very difficult with drying rugs outdoors. Some owners invest in rug dryers for this very reason. Either way, you will want to ensure your rug is dried in such a way that it is able to keep its natural shape. With the right tools, cleaning and drying rugs at home can be an easy process and be much more cost-effective than using a professional cleaning service.
It is almost inevitable that at the end of the winter season turn out rugs will need reproofing. They have been made with waterproof materials (usually canvas) which unfortunately after a heavy winter session will lose their waterproofing properties. This is what helps to keep your horse warm and dry in adverse weather. Therefore it is important that the proofing works. When you are ready to store your heavy rugs away for the summer months this is the ideal time to think about reproofing.
Just like with cleaning, there are two options available. You can try to reproof yourself at home or send the rugs away to a professional. There are pros and cons to both. Reproofing at home can work out much cheaper. There are many types of DIY proofing sprays on the market to choose from. They can however be difficult to apply yourself and generally do not work as well. Many owners decide to send their rugs away for reproofing in order to receive a professional job. This will usually work out more expensive all in all but will be much less time consuming for you.
There’s no doubt about it, winter rugs encounter their fair share of wear and tear throughout the winter months. It is common to find that rugs have been torn or ripped whilst your horse has been out in the field. Stitching can also often become loose. It is always a good idea if this is the case to take your rugs to a professional for some care and attention. Unless of course, you fancy yourself as a handy seamstress!
Most professional rug cleaning services will not only ensure that your rugs are cleaned and reproofed but will also mend broken rugs. This can involve stitching up any holes, fixing surcingle straps and ensuring any leather fastenings are well oiled (if applicable).
Once your rugs are clean, dry, waterproofed and mended it is important you store them away in the correct way. Throwing them in the corner of a messy tack room will not really suffice. Always make sure that rugs are fully dry before storing them away. Otherwise, you will find they will become mouldy very quickly. Investing in a dry bin or trunk ideally with a lid to store your rugs is ideal. Always ensure your rugs are stored in a dry, mould free environment.
As you can see, taking good care of your winter rugs is a process in itself. It will, however, ensure they stay in good condition for years to come. Do you have a plan in place for your horse’s rugs this year?