EQUUS - - Eq Hands On - By Chris­tine Barakat with Melinda Freck­le­ton, DVM

A hot, sweaty, un­clipped horse presents a chal­lenge in the mid­dle of win­ter. Once wet, a win­ter coat doesn’t pro­vide in­su­la­tion, leav­ing a horse at risk of a chill. Your chal­lenge after a vig­or­ous work­out is to keep him warm un­til his coat dries.

Your best bet is to cover your horse with a cooler—ei­ther an old-fash­ioned woolen one or one made of a mod­ern ma­te­rial that wicks mois­ture away from the body. Then, keep him away from the wind and drafts un­til his coat is dry, chang­ing the cooler if it be­comes damp. If you’re in a hurry, towel dry your horse or even break out a hair dryer, be­ing care­ful to not over­heat his skin.

But don’t put a heavy blan­ket on a hot, wet horse in cold weather. That will merely trap the mois­ture, mak­ing his coat stay wet longer. Stick with a cooler un­til he is dry, then put on his reg­u­lar blan­ket. It could take sev­eral hours for a horse to be ready for his win­ter blan­ket, de­pend­ing on how sweaty he is and what the weather is like, so plan your rides to al­low enough time for this follow-up.

The good news is you don’t have to keep your horse walk­ing un­til he’s dry. That’s a common mis­con­cep­tion. Walk­ing him un­til his breath­ing re­turns to nor­mal will en­sure his mus­cles have prop­erly cooled down, but once he’s no longer huff­ing or puff­ing, walk­ing is not nec­es­sary.

If you fre­quently ask your horse for ex­er­tion in freez­ing weather, con­sider giv­ing him a par­tial or even a full body clip. A clipped horse needs much more pro­tec­tion from the cold in the form of blan­kets and shel­ter than his nat­u­ral-coated herd­mates, but he will dry much faster after work­outs.

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