On Mythbuster Monday, we tackle a variety of equestrian myths to either bust or confirm. Today’s discussion: Should hot horses be walked until they’re completely cooled down?
It’s Mythbuster Monday, where Horse Nation dives into different equestrian myths and provides research-based evidence to either bust or confirm those myths. Today’s topic: Should hot horses be walked until they’re completely cooled down? Should they be hosed while walking? Is it acceptable to hose them down instead of walking? Read further to find out!
Myth: Hot horses should be walked until they’re completely cooled down
Myth or Fact: Fact
Horses utilize their natural thermoregulatory system to cool down when warm. However, after strenuous exercise routines the system may get overwhelmed and have trouble compensating. Hyperthermia in horses can cause death and may be exhibited due to inadequate fitness conditioning, extreme hot and humid weather conditions, and a weakened thermoregulatory system. So, how do we keep our horses from hitting this point?
Is it true that hot horses should be walked until they’re completely cooled down?
Horse Illustrated gives a detailed rationale in their article as to why horses should be walked until they’re completely cool. When a horse is in exercise, he dissipates 65 to 70 percent of his body heat through evaporation. Too much internal heat and the inability to regulate it can create injury to organs and the nervous system. Suddenly stopping your hot horse without cool down ceases circulation in the muscles, causing heat to remain in large muscle groups and the brain. In order to avoid this, the horse should be cooled down gradually to bring its vital signs back to normal. Continuing to walk until cooled down allows for this to happen by circulating the warmer blood out of the muscles and closer to the skin and lungs, allowing it to be replaced with cooler blood. If your horse is extremely warm after a vigorous workout, you can aid the cool down process by soaking his neck, chest, and legs with cool water.
According to an article by Equus Magazine, putting a horse away hot and sweaty is bad for his health. This article asserts that the cool down process should be started 15 minutes prior to finishing your ride. Walking the horse for 15 minutes at the end of the ride will allow the heat in the muscles to dissipate. They also state that it is important not to remove the saddle right away after dismounting. At the point you step off your horse, the back still needs to cool down. The cinch should be loosened to allow minor air flow to begin the cool down process. Removing the saddle too soon can cause too much air flow to the back muscles, which may cause cramping. When the saddle is removed, if the back remains sweaty, place a cooler on the horse and continue walking until completely dry.
Horse Racing Sense published an article discussing how the cool down is just as important as the warm up for a horse. They state that failing to walk your horse for cool down can cause heat stroke, dehydration, or tying up. The process they provide for cooling down is to walk the horse until his heart rate comes down and his respirations go back to normal. This allows for a slow cool down. You should then continuously shower the horse with water. Let the horse drink water freely. Add electrolytes to the water if the horse is sweating profusely. Add a fan to the cool down process. Don’t stuff your hot horse in a trailer or stall until completely cooled. Avoid placing a cooler on the horse because the evaporation process is crucial to cooling down a horse.
Overall, horses should be walked until completely cool. Coolers should not be used unless cooling horse down in cold weather. Horses should never be placed on the trailer or in their stall while still sweaty. The cool down process is just as important as the warm up. Make sure to save enough time at the end to walk for at least 15 minutes.
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