Saturday 28th of November 2020

Over rugging: Choosing the right travel rug

By Ellie Kelly

“Dogs die in hot cars” was a powerful message delivered by the RSPCA. But what about “Horses die in hot horseboxes and under hot rugs”?

In the modern age of horse ownership where transporting horses is common place, do we consider enough how best to support their physical state and welfare? Both over-rugging and transporting a horse in an enclosed horsebox or trailer in hot weather, can contribute to severe dehydration and heat stress.

For most owners, a travel rug is a staple requirement for the sport horse at any level. So how do you choose what is the right rug to travel your horse in?

There are many factors to consider, such as the season, the state of your horse’s coat – clipped or unclipped. Plus, whether they are a good traveller or prone to sweat outbreaks. It is fair to say that vanity often plays a part as travel rugs often double up as “show rugs” and we all like to look the part but our horse certainly won’t feel the part if it arrives in a sweaty mess, regardless of whether there is gold piping and a sponsors logo splashed on the side.

Much also depends on the vehicle. The wind chill factor present on the back of an open trailer may be completely absent in a closed horsebox. Even if well ventilated, fully enclosed trailers and lorries can become very warm inside due to body heat generated by the horses inside. Horses should really be checked regularly to make sure they are not too hot and even sweating under rugs, particularly if they were loaded before cooling down properly after competition.

But sometimes this isn’t an option on the journey and even with CCTV, it is almost impossible to check on their welfare regularly. Furthermore, just feeling under the rug to check temperature does not really give an accurate reading of just how hot our horse is.

A French team of scientific experts have developed a device that could change that. Orscana is an intelligent sensor that provides horse owners with the ability to better understand what their horse needs. With a monitor attached inside the horse’s rug which is linked to an app on your mobile phone, the Orscana delivers detailed information about your horse’s temperature and activity. It detects four distinct levels of a horse’s movement: lying down, standing calmly, active and when a horse is agitated.

With the ease of having this information on your mobile, you can easily find out whether the horse requires a different weight of rug during the journey. International Showjumpers Kevin Staut and Patrice Delaveau from the Jump 5 Team are firm believers in the concept.

According to Patrice Delaveau:

“Orscana helps us on journeys in the horsebox. Before Orscana, if the grooms had any doubt they needed to stop, check the horses manually to see if they were too hot or cold. With Orscana, we can anticipate the situation.”

Kevin Staut explains how it has helped him:

“It is important for us to know in real time the temperature, body movement and humidity. I like to have air in the lorry even in the winter, but on the road the horses sweat more. Orscana allows us to know if each horse is comfortable.”

Both professional and amateur riders have found Orscana invaluable. Not just during transport but horses often have to cope with a drastic change in location be that a new home or competing abroad. A change in management, climate or location increases the risk of anxiety, colic and injury whilst the horse is acclimatising. 

“It is very important for us to see if our horses have had a restful night or if they have been disturbed especially before a competition” Patrice explains.

Orscana reveals how horses are behaving when not under supervision. This is particularly useful for horses in rehab, on box rest or prone to colic.

For more information on the Orscana device:

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