How to Cool Down a Horse After Riding

Table of Contents

How to Cool Down a Horse After Riding

Table of Contents

Like many animals, horses sweat to regulate their body temperature. However, they might find it challenging to cool down adequately in extreme heat or after vigorous exercise. That’s why it’s important to assist your horse in cooling down to maintain their health and performance.

This guide will explore effective strategies for cooling down a horse post-ride, emphasizing the significance of this practice for their well-being. Special considerations for young, pregnant, or elderly horses will also be discussed, ensuring you have the knowledge to care for your equine partner in various conditions.

Normal Temperature of a Horse

Person riding a horse

The average body temperature for an adult horse typically falls between 99 to 101.5°F, while a foal’s is slightly higher, ranging from 99.5 to 102.1°F. Given individual variations among horses, it’s recommended to regularly measure your horse’s temperature to establish their normal range.

How Do I Take My Horse’s Temperature?

  • Firstly, keep a small amount of lubricant, such as petroleum jelly or soapy water. Spread a light layer in the lower half of the thermometer.
  • Stand next to the horse’s hind end to avoid being kicked. Ensure the horse knows you’re there.
  • Next, lift the tail and gently insert the thermometer into the horse’s rectum. Ensure the tip is not inserted into the dung but against the rectal wall. 
  • Hold the end of the thermometer so it won’t go too far or fall on the ground.
  • Remove the thermometer when you hear audible signal sounds.
  • Read the temperature. 
  • Finally, shake or turn off your thermometer. Remember to clean it with a tissue or cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol.

Why It’s Important to Keep Your Horse Cool

close view of a Horse head, panting with its tongue out

Cooling down a horse after riding is essential to gradually lower its body temperature and prevent muscle stiffness, promoting recovery. This process aids in efficiently removing toxins built up during exercise, ensuring the horse’s cardiovascular system adjusts back to resting levels smoothly. Proper cooldowns contribute to maintaining the horse’s overall health and readiness for future activities.

After a demanding ride, don’t let muscle stiffness set your horseback. Try CarnoGel for a soothing recovery. Click here to learn more.

7 Tips to Cool Down a Hot Horse (Safely) After a Ride

Horse drinking water from a trough

1. Stroll in the Shade

The first tip is to walk your horse slowly in the shade. Horses cool down like we do with a gentle walking or stretching session.

This is especially important if it’s hot and humid. A ten to 15-minute walk at the end of the ride will cool a horse down by keeping their blood circulating through their skin and muscles. 

Furthermore, walking helps remove the lactic acid and heat from the horse’s muscles. It also reduces subsequent muscle soreness and assists in heart rate recovery. Stopping a horse directly after an exercise can cause the muscle to tighten, leading to serious conditions (tying up or rhabdomyolysis) and affecting vital organs.

Therefore, proper post-workout muscle care is important. 

CarnoGel contains carnosine that accelerates muscle recovery when applied directly to the desired muscle group. It also enables better and faster muscular growth in horses. [2]

2. Monitor the Horse’s Body Temperature and Breathing Rate/Heart Rate

Check the horse’s temperature throughout the cooling-off process so you know what the normal temperature should be after an intense period of activity. You can also monitor the horse’s breathing and heart rates.

One way to easily monitor the horse’s pulse is by placing three fingers under the bottom jawbone and under the cheek. Doing this lets you feel a large vein-like structure on the lower jaw, which is like a small string or pencil under the skin.

Count the pulse for 15 seconds and multiply the number by four. For example, 11 beats in 15 seconds. 11×4= 44. So, the horse’s heart is beating approximately 44 times per minute. Normal adult horses have a heart rate of 28 to 40 beats per minute. [3]

3. Sufficient Water intake

The average horse drinks between five and ten gallons of water daily, depending on the weather conditions and exercise level. [4]

When horses sweat, they lose essential electrolytes, reducing their ability to cool down. So, make sure to let the horses drink their fill and replace the water they lost during the ride.

You can prepare an electrolyte solution by adding water with the right proportion of salt dissolved. If your horse doesn’t like the taste, gradually increase the amount over a few weeks until it becomes more palatable.

4. Sponge or Hose Down the Horse

If it’s hot outside and the horse is very sweaty, a bath will feel good for them. Run cold water over the horse with a hose or sponge to cool them down. You can also use a sweat scraper to remove excess water. 

After a vigorous workout or on hot days, begin running cool water over the horse’s chest. Next, move towards the large jugular grooves on the side of the neck and towards the lower legs. These areas have small veins that quickly carry cooled blood to the horse’s interior.

Progress to hosing the entire body when the horse’s breathing eases or they seem less distressed.

Alternative: Misting your horse with cold water

When moisture is absorbed from the horse’s skin, it helps regulate their temperature. So, you may want to install a misting cooling system in your horses’ stables. This will be particularly useful in hot weather.

5. Cover the Horse’s Back with a Cooler

Another tip is to cool your horse properly by covering its back with a cooler. 

When you dismount from the horse after the initial walk, put the cooler on its back while the saddle is still in place. Removing it too soon would expose the horse’s skin and back muscles to a rush of cold air. Doing this can also cause muscle cramps.

Therefore, wait a few minutes to remove the saddle and continue walking the horse with the cooler on its back. 

6. “Thatch” the Horse

Another way to cool down the horse’s body temperature is to stuff a thick layer of straw or hay underneath the cooler. This process is called “thatching” and is beneficial for horses that usually take a long time to dry off after training. 

If you don’t have a cooler, you may also want to use a blanket. In addition, you can rub the horses down with a dry, clean towel to dry them more quickly.

7. Don’t  Return the Horse to Their Stall Too Quickly

Our last tip for the cooling-down process is to only return the horse to its stall after it has completely cooled or dried off. 

If you return the horse too soon after the training, it could catch a chill. If their breathing and heart rates are still elevated or you can still feel sweat in their body, it’s not yet time to return them to their stall.

It usually takes about 30 minutes for the heat in the horse’s muscle to dissipate after an exercise. [5] Call the veterinarian if the horse has not cooled down after an hour. 

Special Considerations When Cooling Down a Young, Pregnant, or Old Horse

A herd of horses on a grassy field

Anyone with a horse with special requirements should know their horse and be in tune with it. If the horse feels or looks different, shows discomfort, or behaves differently, the cooling routine or exercise should be reevaluated and modified properly.

The particular consideration when cooling down young horses:

  • We should give them enough time to think about and settle into the cooling-down process without scaring them with the unfamiliar routine.

For pregnant horses:

  • Monitor the mare’s temperature to avoid stress, overheating, and overexertion.
  • Work closely with a veterinarian to develop a safe and suitable exercise schedule for a pregnant mare. It’s not the time to guess because overheating can harm the pregnant mare and the foal.

For old horses:

  • Old horses tend to lose more fat and muscle. Still, they must be cooled down after a competition or exercise using the same method as younger horses.
  • Ensure they don’t get cold from being damp. They may need a light blanket or sheet when their core temperature returns to normal.

How to Tell if a Horse is Too Hot

A horse that is too hot may demonstrate the following symptoms:

  • Unwillingness to move
  • Continuous rapid breathing
  • Disinterested in the environment
  • Sluggish or weak movements
  • Skin does not retake its form after a pinch test
  • Body temperature above 105 degrees Fahrenheit
  • High heart rate. The normal heart rate for an adult horse ranges between 28 and 48 beats per minute. For newborn foals, it ranges between 80 and 120 beats per minute, while for yearlings, it is between 40 and 60 beats per minute.


Horse and rider leaping over a hurdle during a horse race

Dutifully cooling down a horse after training or during hot weather is a standard procedure for good horsemanship. This guide has helped you learn how to cool down a hot horse safely.

Several factors affect how much heat has built up in their body and the time it takes to cool them down. These include their body type, physical conditioning, climatic conditions, hair coat, hydration, terrain, the weight of the tack and the rider, and exercise effort. 

If the weather isn’t too humid and hot and you haven’t been riding the horse very long, it should not take long to restore the horse’s system to normal. However, the cool-down process will take longer with prolonged training in hot weather.

Additionally, prolonged exposure to high temperatures can cause heat stress, heatstroke, colic, dehydration, or muscle spasms (tying up) – comparable to cramps that a human may experience. 

Find relief from equine muscle spasms with ChemiPower’s CarnoGel. It’s a gel trusted by the large equestrian community to increase muscle performance and shorten downtime. 





[4] Op cit. The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP)