The procedure for grooming a hot horse will likely change according to the circumstances. For example, the way a rider decides to groom a horse after riding in the summer will be different from how she grooms in the winter.
The same goes for the level of work in the actual ride. If the horse is hardly puffing after a quick hack in the pasture, there is no reason to observe a prolonged grooming ritual. However, if the horse is breathing hard and covered with sweat from a hard work-out over fences, the grooming will likely take longer.
Ways to Groom a Horse After Riding
There are several different ways to groom after riding. Bathing a horse is the preferable method if the weather allows because cool water aids in cooling a horse down. It lowers the core body temperature and helps soothe the animal after a difficult ride.
Others prefer to groom a horse after riding with brushes and curry combs. This is sometimes the only method that will work if the temperature outside is too low or if the horse has sensitive skin that responds poorly to frequent bathing.
A rubber curry mitt works wonders when grooming a horse after riding because it lifts the hair and promotes free air flow through the coat, helping the animal to cool. Make sure when grooming a hot horse, however, to use a gentle curry with soft nubs to avoid irritating the skin.
If bathing a horse isn’t an option, some horseback riders turn to sponges for cooling a horse down. Sponge baths are soothing to the horse and can be conducted in a warm barn or temperature-controlled wash stall. Since the horse is not soaked, a blanket will keep him from getting sick in colder weather.
Horses can also benefit from a liniment bath after a hard workout. Mix some liquid liniment in a bucket of water (two cups liniment is sufficient) and sponge over the horse’s back, neck, shoulders, legs and haunches. This helps ease muscle soreness and it feels good to the animal. It also has anti-fungal properties.
Cooling a Horse Down in Cold Weather
When trying to cool a horse down in cold weather, it is important to make sure the animal is comfortable. Even if he is hot after a hard ride, a blanket or cooler will help ward off a chill.
If it is colder than 65 degrees Fahrenheit, it is usually best to avoid bathing a horse after a ride. At lower temperatures, the horse’s muscles are likely to get cold and stiffen, which can lead to numerous physical problems. Of course, if the horse can stand in a climate-controlled stall until dry, temperature outside is not an issue.
Cooling a Horse Down in Hot Weather
In extremely hot weather, horses are more likely to suffer heat exhaustion and other problems. To groom a horse after riding in hot weather, it is a good idea to walk him until he is cool, then bathe in mild water. Additionally, the horse should not go back to his stall until he is mostly dry.
The problem with bathing a horse in hot weather is that it becomes more difficult to detect a second sweat. For this reason, many riders choose to brush and curry their horses after a ride before putting them up.
Keeping Safety in Mind
Safety should be the top priority when grooming a horse after a ride. These grooming tips will help riders keep their horses in top physical condition and free of diseases or injuries that could last a long time.
When in doubt, horseback riders should ask their trainers or instructors for advice. There are numerous factors that should be considered in deciding how to cool a horse down, and although one mistake won’t be devastating, the horse’s needs should always come first.