7 Cool-Down Strategies for Your Horse
By Eleanor Kellon, VMD
Edited by Bev Gun-Munro
Beating the heat involves water — both on the inside & outside your horse
Summer’s heat and humidity proves deadly to way too many horses every summer. Horses lose their lives every year to heat stroke.
Countless others struggle through anything from weakness to colic as a result of inadequate care in hot weather.
Don’t let this happen to your horse!
Your horse’s normal body temperature is 98.5 to 101 degrees Fahrenheit.
Their body temperature rises as they exert themselves. To avoid reaching temperatures that can damage their brain and organs, they must be able to get rid of excess heat.
Nature gives your horse several ways to stay cool. Some heat is transferred to the air exiting their lungs. The remainder is carried to the skin surface by the bloodstream. Blood vessels very close to the surface of the skin dilate, and dissipate heat through conduction, convection, and evaporation.
*Conduction is the transfer of heat from the body to the cooler air.
**Convection is the movement of hot air away from the body’s surface, replacing it with cooler air.
***Evaporation of sweat is absolutely necessary for efficient heat removal.
Here are 7 ways you cool your horse as the temperature rises again this summer…………………
Cool Down Your Hot Horse
#1 Create a breeze.
Slow walking creates a bit of a breeze over your horse’s body surface to enhance convective cooling. A fan works even better!
#2 Find cooler air.
Shade provides cooler air temperatures, which also enhances convective cooling.
#3 Hose them down.
As you hose off your horse, heat is lost due to evaporative cooling. Heat is also as long as the water temperature is cooler than their body surface.
Myth : Note that hosing your hot horse down with cold water doesn’t cause any ill effects. The colder the water, the more heat loss occurs.
#4 Use misting fans.
Installing misting fans is the most efficient method of all. A well-known fact is that Olympic horses are kept cool with this method. The mist causes cooling and evaporation, while the fans’ breeze improves evaporation.
#5: Available Drinking Water.
Allowing your hot horse to drink keeps them not only hydrated but also has cooling effects, as the water temperature and your horse’s interior temperature equalize.
Severe dehydration can lead to organ damage.
Myth! There are no health risks associated with letting a hot horse drink cold water. And there’s no such thing as giving your horse “too much” water.
#6 Invest in & Give them Electrolytes.
Your exercising horse loses electrolytes along with water when they sweat. Their cells function like small batteries with different concentrations of electrolytes inside vs. outside the cell. There are even differences in concentrations between the structures inside the cells.
Another function of electrolytes, especially sodium, is to “hold” water in your horse’s body. To maintain proper hydration levels, their brain constantly monitors sodium concentration. Thirst is triggered if the concentration of sodium gets too high; salt hunger is triggered if sodium gets too low.
There’s a place for electrolyte supplements, but they have to be used correctly. Use this checklist to get started.
 Crucial! Give your horse as much water as they want & as often as they want!
 Use plain salt to meet your horse’s baseline sodium and chloride needs. Give him 1 ounce per day in winter, 2 ounces per day in summer.
 If your horse is working two hours or less at low sweating rates, or one hour or less at moderate sweating rates, add 1 extra ounce of salt for each hour of low sweating work, 2 ounces for each hour of moderate sweating.
 If your horse is working longer than the times above, feed the extra salt only to meet the needs of the first two hours (or the one hour of moderate sweating), then use an electrolyte replacement for any additional work above that level.
#7 Fly Wraps. Fly Wraps are a breathable, mesh wrap for your horse’s lower leg. Much like the fly mask, Fly Wraps are totally breathable, protect your horse’s lower legs from pesky insects, and serve to comfort your horse in a number of ways. They serve as a breathable bandage, and their ‘feel’ as they sit snug on the lower leg offers great comfort to those horses who are ‘antsy’ in the cross ties. Over the years we found and advise our clients to hose their horse’s legs while the Fly Wraps are “ON” their horses. On hot summer days a cool, wet Fly Wrap will help blood flow as well as offer prolonged cooling comfort to your horses. Think of a wet Fly Wrap being like a cool wet face cloth applied to a feverish forehead, or an ice pack to a swollen joint or muscle. Washing your Fly Wraps while your horses are wearing them ‘kills two birds with one stone’. Wash & Wear we say!
Eleanor M. Kellon, VMD, currently works as a writer, teacher, and internal medicine/nutrition consultant. Prior to this, Dr. Kellon has had more than 10 years experience in private practice. She also has extensive experience with performance horses. She’s based in Pennsylvania, where she and her husband raise, train, and race Standardbreds. Her most recent book is Horse Journal Guide to Equine Supplements and Nutraceuticals (Globe Pequot Press).