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Cool down horses after exercise in winter

BATON ROUGE, La. – As cool November temperatures arrive in Louisiana, horse owners need to make preparations to keep their horses healthy through the winter.

“However, don’t let this cold weather fool you,” said LSU AgCenter equine specialist Neely Walker. “Your riding and training goals for the winter can still be achieved as long as you provide appropriate cool-down and recovery for your horses.”

Horses need time to cool down after strenuous exercise, Walker said. Cooling down involves lowering the heart rate, respiration rate and body temperature to a resting level before returning horses to their stall or pasture.

While it may mean spending more time in the elements, it is an essential step in maintaining a horse’s overall health and conditioning, Walker said.

“Proper circulation helps clear waste products associated with exercise and will decrease muscle soreness,” Walker said. “Inadequate cool-downs can result in injury and decreased performance.”

Walker recommends beginning a cool-down by walking for a minimum of 10 to 15 minutes. Continue walking or exercising at a reduced rate until the horse’s vitals return to a resting rate.

Next, loosen the girth without removing the saddle right away to allow air to slowly cool the horse’s back. This reduces the chance of cramping.

After removing the saddle, owners of horses with thick winter coats should ruffle their hair with a curry comb or towel to speed drying. Walker suggests using a wool or fleece cooler to prevent the horse from becoming chilled while their coat is drying.

While drying, provide horses with grass hay and water. Walker said the fiber in hay increases body temperature, which helps prevent getting chilled. Proper hydration is also important.

“Ensuring that water is not too cold to drink or frozen will increase the likelihood that your horse will stay hydrated during cold weather,” Walker said.

Once the hair coat is dry, the cooler can be removed. If the horse is clipped, blanket them before turning out — but make sure they are completely dry, Walker said.

“Heavy winter blankets do a great job of keeping your dry horse warm, but they do not allow a wet horse to dry,” she said.

Rick Bogren

Last Updated: 11/14/2014 4:11:40 PM

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