A proper cool down is always important, but with summer rides taking place in hot and often humid weather, your horse is more likely to become overheated while working. Make sure to keep an eye on the heat index (combination of temperature and humidity) and tailor your rides accordingly so both you and your horse exercise safely, and always keep an eye on your horse for signs of heat exhaustion, as this is a serious problem. After a ride, follow these general guidelines on how to cool down a horse to ensure your horse is safe and comfortable when you put him back in his stall or pasture this summer:
- Walking Cool Down – Spend roughly the last 10-15 minutes of your ride at the walk. Pay attention to how much your horse’s nostrils are flared and how fast his flanks move as he breathes. Bend down and feel his chest and shoulders to check for sweat, an obvious sign of being warm. You should walk until his breathing returns to normal. After you dismount, loosen his girth slightly for the walk back to the barn to make him more comfortable and to begin taking pressure off his back.
- Allow Access to Water – Once you’ve untacked, make sure you offer your horse a drink of water. Drinking cool water helps the horse’s temperature lower after a workout and helps avoid dehydration. Make sure to allow water in moderation until the horse is cooled down and breathing has returned to normal.
- Hose with Cool Water – Rinsing off a horse with cool water helps to lower his body temperature as heat is absorbed off his body into the water through conduction. Start with hosing his legs so he can become accustomed to the water temperature, then work your way up to his chest and shoulders and then the rest of his body. After hosing, remove excess water from the horse’s body with a sweat scraper. The water you scrape off the horse may feel hot or warm. If this is the case, hose him again and repeat the process until the water scraped off feels cool.
- Hand Walk or Graze in Shade – Putting a horse back into his stall while still wet can cause him to heat back up, particularly if the air is still. Allowing your horse to fully or partially dry outside in the shade or in the barn aisle with a fan is the best way to ensure your cooled off horse stays that way. Once his skin feels cool to the touch, he can safely be put back into his stall.
- Hold the Grain – While eating grass or hay after a workout is fine in most cases (but be cautious), grain should be held for a while until the horse is completely cool. Once your horse is cooled and breathing normally, grain should be fine. If you are unsure, consult with your veterinarian to determine when grain is ok to feed, and whether allowing grass and hay in the
If your horse runs hot even when he’s not being exercised, or you live in a hot climate, a cooling blanket such as the HyperKewl™ Evaporative Cooling Horse Blanket can help provide relief while he’s relaxing and at rest. After being submerged in water for a few minutes and having the excess water rung out, this blanket will keep your horse cool for four to six hours.
There may be scenarios where your cool down procedure differs from these guidelines, but this is a great place to start to keep you & your furry friends safe and comfortable!