During the colder months, a cool down is as important for drying out a damp coat as it is for muscle recovery.
Bevin Dugan, manager and head trainer of Winchester Stables in Newfane, Vermont, advises riders to plan for cool down time after winter workouts: “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 several factors:· Is he clipped?
- Do you live in a cold or warm weather climate?
- Is he blanketed after exercise?
Clipping, whether full or partial, can greatly shorten drying times. This is especially true if a horse is 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-coated horses, a cooler will help wick 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.
Dugan has one final bit of advice: “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.”