While watching my husband work with one of our green horses today it dawned on me that it might be a good idea to write an article about the importance of cooling horses down after they have been worked during the cold winter weather.
If you’re new to the world of horses, hearing me say that you need to cool a horse down when it’s cold outside may not make much sense. Let me explain what it is that I’m talking about. When you exercise a horse enough that it gets a bit of a sweat built up during the winter, the phrase “cooling down” is often used to describe getting the sweat dried off and their muscles rested after having been exercised.
Even though it might be 32 degrees outside, when your horse exercises during the winter, their muscles heat up and they build up a layer of sweat. If you come in from a nice long winter trail ride and just turn your sweaty horse loose without taking the time to get him cooled down and dried off, you run the risk of them getting sick.
In my opinion it’s even more important to cool a horse down and get them dried off during the winter than it is when it’s warm outside.
How To Dry a Horse Off During The Winter
The first tip I have for you is to make sure that you plan enough time to do a proper cool down after your ride. If you try to squeeze a ride in just before sunset, what are the chances that you’ll actually spend the time necessary to get your trusty mount dried off before you turn him loose? If you’re like most people, those odds are pretty slim. Remember that it takes longer to dry a sweaty horse in the winter because you don’t have the warming effects of the sun to help out.
If you’re pressed for time, you might consider dismounting, loosening the saddle cinch a bit, and walking the last mile or so of the ride. This will give you a bit of a head start on the cool down process since they don’t have to work as hard if they’re not carrying you for the last mile of the ride.
After I’m back at the hitching post and I’ve taken the saddle off, I like to fluff my horses hair up with a good curry comb. It has been my experience that simply brushing a horse will cause all of the wet hairs to lay flat and the sweat will take even longer to dry.
If you have some dry towels, you can use them like a curry comb to speed up the drying process. There are some specially made cooler blankets that are designed to wick away moisture. If your horses are comfortable wearing a blanket, this may help them dry off faster than if you just allow them to air dry. Don’t turn your horse loose while he’s wearing his cooler though and never put a blanket on a wet horse and then turn them loose.
If you are fortunate enough to have an electric drier at your barn AND your horse has been trained to stand quiet while you use it, you can use the warm air from the blow drier to get him dried off faster. Keep in mind that the time to get your horse accustomed to a cooling blanket or the sounds and sensations of a blow drier is NOT the first time you ride him in the winter and need to dry him off quickly.
Take Good Care Of Your Horse and He’ll Take Good Care of You
A horse that stays warm and dry will have a better chance of staying healthy and maintaining his body condition during the long cold winter months. When a horse is cold and wet, he will need to consume more hay to stay healthy and maintain his body weight. If you’re horse is nice enough to pack you around during the winter, the least you can do is take the time to make sure that he gets a proper cool down and dried off properly.
While we’re on the subject of being kind to your horses, you really should take a minute and check out this article: Feed Your Critters Right With A Solar Powered Automatic Horse Feeder.