Cooling Out a Horse

Question: How do you cool a horse down safely, especially if overheated, without shocking its system? 

Answer: You will not shock its system using cold/ice water to cool out a horse. We actually just had a horse overheat recently. It was during an exercise test, and she got up to 106.8. We were able to cool the horse down with ice water sponges, with scraping it off and reapplying again. Ice sponges were applied to the neck, inside of the legs, under the abdomen, any any area with thin skin and lots of capillaries. You need to get the blood cooled off so it can circulate through the core of the animal, thus cooling its interior.

Question: When cooling out a horse, is it OK to let it drink water?

Answer: As you are cooling out the horse, a sip of water as it is walking won’t be a problem. Yes, it is OK for the horse to drink when hot, but control the amount of intake, and break up the drinking into several segments. Don’t let a horse drink its fill. Give it a sip, and then walk, a sip, and walk.

Question: How can I tell if a horse is overheating?

Answer: Check the horse’s vital signs. If a horse is overheating, then its respiration rate will be higher than its heart rate. Count the horse’s breaths per minute, then count the heart rate per minute. If the horse’s respiration rate remains higher, it is not cooling off; if the horse rapidly goes back to a higher heart rate than respiration rate, it is cooling down. Also check the temperature using a rectal thermometer. If over 105 degrees F, it is reason for concern, especially if it stays over 102 degrees F after 30 minutes of active cooling out.

HorseQuest experts include: Colleen Brady, Purdue University; Carey Williams, Rutgers University; Ed Johnson , University of Florida

Courtesy of Extension