How to Cool an Overheated Horse

Cooling out your horse after a hard workout is a very important part of horse ownership. This article will teach you how to cool an overheated horse in the summer and in the winter, as the proper way to cool out a horse varies with the seasons.

In the summer: After a long summer ride, your horse may be breathing heavy and sweating profusely. Take the time to end your ride with 5-10 minutes of walking to let the horse begin to catch their breath.

After you have walked for several minutes, dismount and remove your tack. If at all possible, this is a great time to hose your horse down. Hosing after a hot sweaty ride not only helps cool out an overheated horse, but also helps wash away the sweat residue that can dry out or bleach your horse’s coat.

Use lukewarm water if possible, begin spraying the legs and slowly spray the rest of the body. If you only have cold water, it’s especially important to spray only the overheated horse’s legs for 3-5 minutes. Hitting the large muscles with a blast of cold water can make a horse sick or sore, but blood vessels run close to the surface of the skin in the legs, so by spraying the legs of a hot horse, you can cool the blood, which then circulates to the rest of the body cooling in a safe manner.

Remember to scrape the water off your overheated horse after you hose them off. Heat will have transferred to the water in contact with the skin, and by scraping it off you can literally scrape some of the heat out of the horse’s body. By the end of a 5-10 minute wash your horse should be breathing normally and be much more comfortable. If your horse is to be stalled you may want to hand graze the horse for 5-15 minutes to let them cool completely before being stalled.

In the Wintertime: Cooling out in the winter time can be frustrating, but it doesn’t have to be! If you plan to ride your horse frequently through the winter, hard enough to work up a good sweat you may want to consider partially or fully clipping your horse. Clipping makes it easier to cool out your horse, but also means you will have to blanket according to the temperature all winter long.

To cool out a sweaty horse in temperatures 50 degrees F and below, finished your ride with 5-15 minutes of walking. This is an excellent time to practice dropping your reins and riding without them, or dropping your stirrups and guiding your horse with your legs. After cooling out under saddle, dismount and unsaddle. At this point you may want to use spare towels to towel dry your horse if he is excessively sweaty. Cover your horse with a cooler to help prevent them from getting a chill and lead them at a walk for a few more minutes until the horse is breathing evenly. If you have a slightly warmer spot in your barn, your horse can stand in crossties while you put away your tack and do barn chores. Remove the cooler a little at a time by folding down the front or flipping up the back. Your horse is ready to be turned back out or put into his stall when you can ruffle the fur and feel that the hair next to the skin is dry. Do not blanket a wet horse!

As you can see, the directions on how to cool a horse are not difficult. Cooling out an overheated horse can be a little time consuming, but proper cooling out practices will contribute to a healthier horse long term.

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