A well-managed cooling down routine goes hand-in-hand with cold weather riding to keep your horse at the top of his game during the fall and winter months.
Bevin Dugan, manager and head trainer of Winchester Stables in Newfane, Vermont, said, “Be aware that the more you work your horse ‘up,’ the more time you need to cool him down. If you've trained really hard that day, allow for a good 15 minutes of winding-down time for him to relax without losing too much body heat all at once. It also keeps his muscles loose and helps get his breathing back to normal--about eight to 20 breaths per minute.”
Keep in mind that the goal is to have a dry, comfortable horse, so how you manage that depends on a several factors:
- Is he clipped?
- Does he get very sweaty?
- Do you live in a cold or warm weather climate?
- Is he blanketed after exercise?
A clipped horse, whether it’s a full or partial clip, can take eons off his drying time. This is especially true if he’s in a high-intensity exercise program, he gets really sweaty or you live in a warmer climate. Even in a cold climate you can reduce your drying time by half.
This also is where coolers come in handy, whether your horse is clipped or not and regardless of where you live.
“If you use a wool or fleece quarter-sheet for his warm up, throw it over his back just behind the saddle to keep his muscles from becoming chilled while you’re winding down,” Dugan added.
Once untacked, a full-sized cooler--they come in wool or fleece and in varying thicknesses--will keep a clipped horse warm and cozy as his body acclimates to the cooler temperature. For the wooly ones, a cooler will help whisk moisture to the surface, but be warned that sweat emanates from the skin outward to the coat, so it may feel like it takes forever; however, you can help move things along by toweling and hand walking.
Dugan concludeed by saying, “If your horse wears stable blankets, be sure that he’s completely dry before putting them on; dry blankets on a damp horse results in damp blankets and a damp horse. That goes for putting a blanket over a damp cooler too.”