Piloerection is an important function in the process of thermal regulation. It is the horse's ability to speed up heat loss from the body or increase heat retention using their hair follicles. Each individual hair follicle has a small muscle fibre attached to its base called the "arrector pili" and to dermal tissue on the other end. When the horse feels its body cooling in colder weather the arrector pili contract all at once and the hair follicles stand erect. As the heat is dissipating from the body it has to flow through these upright hair follicles which dramatically slows down heat loss and it also helps retain the body heat against the skin, assisting to keep the animal warm.
On the other hand when the horse exercises or the day starts to warm up the "arrector pili" muscles relax and the hair follicles lie down allowing the horses body heat to quickly dissipate. This action allows the inner core body heat to quickly escape the body aiding the cooling process.
The problem with traditional rugging is that the hair follicles are constantly flattened. When the horse starts to feel cold it cannot raise its hair follicles to slow down its body heat loss. The body heat goes straight out through the blanket so the horse owner then goes the next step and double rugs which is OK while the horse is standing still. This results in many problems when the horse starts to exercise. These problems are covered on the Cool Heat blanket page.
As we know with any muscles they have to be continually active or otherwise atrophy occurs (muscle wastage). If a human breaks their leg and is put in a plaster cast for six weeks, when the plaster is removed, the leg muscles have wasted away and intensive physiotherapy is required to restore these muscles to their original healthy condition.
It is exactly the same situation for the "arrector pili" muscles which are continually flattened with long term rugging. Eventually the horse loses its natural ability to keep warm by raising and lowering its hair follicles. The horse then depends on constant rugging to keep warm in the cooler months. This atrophy to the arrector pili muscles also affects the horse's ability to protect itself in the rain. It can no longer wick moisture up off its skin by raising and lowering its hair follicles. The horse also loses its ability to lift sweat and condensation up off its skin, leading to overheating and skin conditions in the warmer weather.
The Cool Heat blanket allows the hair follicles to function as nature intended, benefiting the long term health of the horse.
For further reading refer to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piloerection
A horse's body temperature has to be maintained at approximately 38 degrees Celsius for maximum health to be maintained. If this temperature is not regularly maintained health issues occur. For instance if the inner core body temperature rises above 38 degC, then the body can suffer heat stress and cell damage can occur to the vital organs. If the temperature drops below 38 degC, then chills and similar complications result. So, for optimum health to be maintained a horse has been provided by nature a number of body functions known as "thermal regulation". Whether running wild in the snow of the mountains or the heat of the desert a horse can maintain this temperature safely through the many variances of its thermal regulation abilities. These processes are listed below.
Piloerection, which has been described in detail above, is one of these functions.
Another very important function for thermal regulation is the horse's ability to regulate blood flow from the body's inner core to just under the skin's surface. The horse's blood naturally travels from deep inside the body through arteries and then into dilated blood vessels just below the skin's surface where it is effectively cooled before returning deep inside the inner core of the body. The opposite occurs when the horse is feeling cold. When the horse feels its body temperature starting to drop in cool weather it can constrict these blood vessels just under the skin's surface. As this blood travels from deep inside the body it is prevented from reaching the surface and cooling.
Muscle movement is a vital part of warming the body creating inner core body heat. This is achieved through body movement (exercise) or the act of shivering. Shivering is achieved through rapid muscle contraction and de-contraction near the skin's surface. Shivering is often involuntary but this rapid muscle movement generates considerable body heat. This should not be looked upon as the horse necessarily suffering from the cold but enacting a vital part of its thermal regulation process. A horse locked in a stable cannot walk or run around to create muscle movement, and hence body heat, so they rely on shivering to create body heat naturally. A horse in a yard or paddock will run or walk around depending on the amount of inner core body heat required to feel comfortable. In cold weather it is always best to avoid locking horses away in confined spaces. The opposite occurs in warm weather when horses restrict their body movement to a minimum to help reduce muscle movement which in turn reduces inner core body heat.
All these wonderful natural functions are impeded by rugging our horses, so if you need to rug, then rug with a Cool Heat blanket.
Watch David Macdonald demonstrate the cool horse blanket on ABC's The New Inventors! Click here to watch now
The Cool Heat blanket / rug has rows of soft plastic insulators which run the length of the blanket lifting the blanket 12mm or 1/2â€³ up off the hair of the horse. This prevents the flattening of the horse's hair protecting one of the horse's natural warming and cooling procedures, known as Piloerection, which is a vital part of a horse's thermal regulation process.
As we know with any muscles, they have to be continually active or otherwise atrophy occurs (muscle wastage).
If a person breaks their leg and is put in a plaster cast for six weeks, when the plaster is removed, the legs muscles have wasted away and intensive physiotherapy is required to restore the leg muscles to their original healthy condition. It is exactly the same situation for the "arrector pili" muscles which are continually flattened so eventually, with long term rugging, the horse loses its natural ability to keep warm by raising and lowering its hair follicles. The horse then depends on constant rugging to keep warm in the cooler months.
This atrophy to the arrector pili muscles also affects the horse's ability to protect itself in the rain as it can no longer wick moisture up off its skin through raising and lowering its hair follicles. The horse also loses its ability to lift sweat and condensation up off its skin, leading to overheating and skin conditions in warmer weather.
Please use the following sizing chart for determining which sized horse rug is most appropriate for you:
The following steps describe how to measure your horse to find the correct size Cool Heat rug/blanket:
Start your measurement from the very middle of the horse's chest directly, under the neck. Starting at this point, pass your measuring tape across to your horse's shoulder, around the shoulder and all the way along the side of your horse, finishing at the end of the horse's rump.
Now look at the size chart and compare your measurement with the sizes on the chart (The chart below). You will notice different countries use varying sizing measurements. Choose the measurement column for your particular region and select the correct size rug/blanket for your horse.
When you are fitting your selected rug/blanket on your horse, ensure the straps are secured correctly and, for safety reasons, secure them in the following order. (When removing your rug/blanket follow the reverse order)
Secure the chest straps at the front of the rug/blanket
Secure the belly straps, ensuring they are not too tight. It is important that you can comfortably place a clenched fist between the straps and the belly
Secure the leg straps loosely around the horse's legs, passing the second secured strap through the first secured strap. It is important that the straps do not hang over or below the horse's hock when secured