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Cooling your horse down after a workout is extremely important. This is especially important for those experiencing summertime temperatures right now and needing to cool down their horses. There is a lot of common things that people are doing, and a new research study just launched some results that have got some shocking information to share with us about an item we may want to consider throwing out.
There are a lot of ways that people cool horses down; the most common one is to walk your horse. The reason why cooling down your horse is important is if your horse overheats, it can cause heat stroke and issues with heat stress. This can lead to things like brain injuries with the increasing body temperature. If they are not cooled down, you can hurt their tendons and could “cook” the tendon essentially. If they are getting hot and sweating, we want to be careful about helping our horses cool down after long workouts. In the wintertime, this can be a little bit tricky because they may run the risk of catching a chill.
We want to make sure that we are cooling them down, walking is the most common way to do this. When it is hot out and you can hose your horse down, it is common for people to use a sweat scraper or hose their horse down and then sweat scrape afterwards. If you are not sure what that means, essentially, if you cover your horse in water, and use a scraper as if you are going to squeegee a car to get excess water off the windows, then you would squeegee your horse and do the same thing. This is common knowledge for a lot of horse people to use a sweat scraper.
There was a Ph.D. with a doctorate out of the University of Queensland that did a study this year and presented the results at the 2021 Equine Science Society virtual symposium and had some interesting things to say and not necessarily what you would suspect. The finding in this study is important for everybody to know for cooling your horse down. There are many different schools of thought to scrape or not to scrape and, some people were saying that you should not bother scraping your horse afterwards; you should apply more water. But also, others were saying that you should always scrape off the excess water to encourage more evaporation and cooling. Depending on if you are into horse racing, or you are into FEI competitions, the advice was different depending on what you are doing. But there were some very conflicting theories and not a lot of evidence to show if you should be scraping or not scraping.
In the study, they took different cooling methods and used five different horses. With five geldings they did this over three weeks where they had treadmill exercise and had each horse exercise on the treadmill for 10 minutes, followed by a 10-minute cool down. They had one of three methods they were studying, so they either walked for 10 minutes, or applied 30 liters of cold water every six minutes or so and then walked for another four minutes (if you do not do liters, that is about eight gallons). They applied 43-degree water every minute for six minutes and then walked for four minutes, or they applied a cold-water application followed by scraping every minute for six minutes and walked for the other four minutes. Essentially, they either walked for ten minutes or applied cold water for six minutes and then walked for another four minutes or they applied cold water for six minutes with scraping every minute and walked for four minutes. Afterwards, the horses stood for 40 minutes, while the study measured different things, they looked at the horse’s central venous temperature, as well as their rectal temperature, before and after the exercise and every minute during cooling and every five minutes during standing. What was surprising about the results is that when you use water, as compared to just walking your horse it would have had a three-fold greater cooling effect, so, three times greater cooling effect on the horse’s venous temperatures (blood temperature), more so than their total body temperature. If you were measuring a horse’s body temperature, it is not necessarily cooling the horse’s body right away but is cooling the horse’s blood system, which over time would help cool the horse’s body down.
What was interesting is that there was no cooling effect of scraping following the cold-water application. So, if you were scraping off the water after putting it on, it is not helping at all, it is only the water that you are leaving on that is helping to cool your horse down. Technically speaking, that means that the heat dissipation by conduction is greater than that of sweat evaporation. The horse’s body temperatures started to drop and continue to drop from ten seconds after the water application alone. When the team scraped the water from the horse’s body their temperatures increased immediately. If you are going to cool off your horse using water this is the fastest or best way to help your horse cool down. It is interesting to find out, you want to leave that water on because it is helping the horse get rid of more heat. They also mentioned that the venous blood temperature reached a normal range and was able to stabilize after about the fifth repeat of the cold-water application, they were doing water every minute, and checking the temperature every minute. After approximately five minutes of applying cold water, the blood temperature was already becoming normal, and that is without scraping. Essentially what they are recommending is that applying water and reapplying water to horses that are hot every minute for about five minutes or so post-exercise is the most effective way to help them cool down.
In conclusion, the study demonstrates that its constant contact with water is more important for getting rid of heat and more effective than just using sweat evaporation to remove the heat so that would be if you are scraping or just walking your horse. The application of water without scraping may help decrease the core body temperature in horses and more effectively in the early stage of exertion heat illness that is the official line coming from this article from the 2021 equine Science Society virtual symposium.
Here at our farm, we do hose off horses when they get hot and sweaty after a workout. I will do that a little bit in the summertime. In the wintertime we do not, we clip horses to help make sure that they are not getting as sweaty and not trapping heat. However, when it is minus 20 or 30, and working horse you do not want them to get sweaty or worked up.
I would be interested to hear your thoughts on what you do with your horses. And is this going to change anything about how you help your horses cool down after a workout?
So, I leave you with those thoughts for today. Hope you guys enjoyed today’s blog post. And as always, thanks for reading.
Remember you can always check out more great free resources and other information at harmonyhorsemanship.com or check me out on my personal website lindseypartridge.com.
Thanks so much, bye for now.