Cooling Your Horse

by Matt

Here comes the heat!

Although it seemed like winter would never end, parts of the country are already heating up into the 90s and beyond — and we’re not just talking about the hot places like Florida! If North America skipped spring and went straight into summer this year, we definitely need to keep an eye on ourselves and our animals for signs of heat stroke. Here are some tips on keeping your horse cool when the temperature is soaring.

Schedule Extra Cool-down Time: Make sure there’s enough time at the end of your work-out for a long, easy stroll. Lean down and loosen the girth, and unfasten any constricting nosebands, if you can, and just let those hot muscles stretch out on their own. Standing still, even for a hose-down, will let overheated muscles tighten up and stiffen quickly. Moving muscles are better at dissipating heat than still ones, as well. Relax and let the cool-down come to you!

Put Water Where It Counts: Throwing water at a horse will get them one thing: wet. If you want it to be a cooling, soothing experience, put water where it matters — on major blood vessels which will carry the cool temperatures throughout the body. Sponge down or aim the hose along the bottom of your horse’s neck, right down to the chest, for maximum cooling affect.

Scrape It Off: The hose-and-scrape method is widely used by endurance, eventing, and any other horse professional who deals with hot horses on a regular basis. Water sits on a horse’s coat, actually insulating the horse and preventing heat from escaping. Counteract this with a quick swipe of the sweat scraper as soon as the water hits the skin. Your horse will get the cooling benefit of the water’s temperature, but none of its insulating downside.

Heat stress in horses is a serious concern. Along with some basic horsekeeping practices, which might include using electrolytes or adding a fan to your horse’s stall or run-in shed,  cooling them out carefully from work-outs can make this summer a lot less taxing for everyone.

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