The Proper Way to Cool a Horse

Submitted by Lisa Graf

Many owners and trainers have never been taught how to properly cool a hot exercising horse. How hard can it be? Just hose it down with water, right?

Actually, it is very important to understand how to safely and quickly cool down a hot, sweating horse. The 1994 FEI Samsung Equine Sports Medicine Conference was held in Atlanta to address problems that were anticipated because of the intense heat and humidity that was likely to occur during the 1996 Olympic Games. Research from the initiative showed that simply hosing off a horse did little good, did not significantly drop the horse’s temperature and might have been detrimental.

Researchers showed that cool to cold water poured or sprayed over a horse’s skin wets the horse, and the very thin layer of water actually contacting the horse’s skin is super -heated quickly to the horse’s body temperature. The rest of the water being sponged or dumped or sprayed on the horse merely sheets over that initial one- to two-cell water layer on the horse. The initial water actually acts like a raincoat and does not allow other water molecules to contact and cool the skin, so the horse can in fact become hotter even while being cooled off.

Therefore, clients should be shown that the best method for cooling a horse is to spray or sponge on water with one hand and to almost immediately scrape off the now super -heated water with a sweat scraper in your other hand. Spray, scrape, repeat is the cooling method of choice. This means of cooling can significantly drop a horse’s core temperature and requires less actual water.

The water can be fairly cold with this method of cooling because it does not stay on the horse’s body long enough to cause muscle cramping, which had been a previous concern when cooling horses with the application of cold water.

Increasing airflow also can help with cooling, so fans and a choice of location with a breeze can help cool an exercising horse, but researchers have shown that water is still 20 times more efficient at cooling horses

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