How to Cool Out a Hot Horse in Winter

winter riding, cooling out horse, horse snow, riding in show, cold weather riding

winter riding, cooling out horse, horse snow, riding in show, cold weather riding

You’ve just returned from an invigorating winter’s ride, your horse enjoyed prancing through the powdery snow, and with the sun shining you didn’t notice the nip in the air. But now your sweaty horse is steaming and with the sun slipping behind the horizon, winter’s chill is fast returning….

After a winter workout, a 10 to 15 minute walk will not only guard against muscle soreness, it is essential to allow the horse’s skin to dry. But one method does not fit all. Your winter cool-out regime will be different depending on a number of factors including whether your horse is clipped, blanketed or “au naturel”; whether he lives inside or outside; and the intensity of your workout. If your horse had a light workout to maintain condition and produced little sweat, your cool-out routine will be different from that needed if your workout incorporated higher intensity training to improve condition. Whatever the situation, always allow sufficient time for your winter cool-out. 

Winter Cool-Out Guidelines

  • After your workout, walk the horse on foot or in the saddle until respiration is normal and skin is dry (returning the hair to completely dry is the next challenge).
  • Never put a heavy winter rug on a wet horse. Use a breathable wool or polar fleece cooler to wick the moisture away, allowing the horse to cool down gradually without catching a chill.
  • Clipped horses will cool down faster and a quarter-sheet or cooler during the final walking phase of the workout is recommended.
  • Lighten the intensity of a workout to avoid a lengthy cool down period on days when you know you are pressed for time.
  • Keep the horse in a heated or warmer area until he is dry.
  • Having a windbreak outside is good management but it will not save your horse from catching a chill. Always make sure your horse is completely dry before turning him out.
  • Curry the horse to fluff up wet hair and keep the horse well groomed. A clean hair coat is more effective when it comes to insulation.
  • Use of a hair dryer on horses is not recommended – skin is too easily burnt and you risk drying out natural oils.

Related: Clipping 101

Reprinted with the kind permission of Equine Guelph.

Photo: ©Canstockphoto/Castenoid