When it comes to the importance of cooling down your horse during and after a workout, a lot of people tend to focus on performance and sport horses and don’t realize the same needs apply to your trail or pleasure horse as well. Keeping trail horses cool can be a challenge, especially depending on the terrain you are covering, and access to water both at the trail head and while out on trail.
Recently I went for a week long trek with my horses in the Adirondacks. It’s a trip we make several times a year, and many of the trails have water crossings, but not all. Whether we’re riding all the way out to the Hudson River, or just riding around camp and through the Painted Pony Rodeo, it’s still important that the horses are able to properly hydrate and cool off. The terrain is challenging, so even on cooler days, the horses work up a good sweat, and keeping trail horses cool becomes more of a concern up here at the higher elevation than when we’re home trail riding on kinder ground.
To keep cool, we make sure to pack a few things with us on trail, including a sponge in a net, with an extendable string for dipping in water to sponge off our horses in water crossings without having to dismount ourselves. I learned this trick from a good friend who’s an endurance rider, and I have to say it comes in really handy. Simply get two clips, a mesh drawstring bag, and a large sponge. Put the sponge in the bag, attach a clip to the bag, and another one to the end of a longer string and you can clip it to your saddle. Unclip the lower clip when you are in water and the sponge will drop in the water, where you can easily retrieve it and sponge off your horse. When done, just clip it back up to keep the long string out of the way and safely away from your horse’s legs and viola! On trail cooling!
For ourselves, we all tend to ride with a combination of the Equi Cool Down beanies, towels, and head bands. The cooling towel can also go in a mesh bag with a similar configuration as the above with the sponge, and be used on ourselves (so we don’t have to sponge ourselves off with a sweaty horse sponge!). The Equi Cool Down headband goes great around the neck to keep cool while riding, and when dismounted, works great on our heads as well. And of course the cooling helmet beanie is key to keeping your head cool under your helmet when mounted.
And finally, when we get back to camp, it’s important to offer our horses water, as well as to cool them down. On really hot or humid days, or days where we’ve logged significant mileage, we want to do more than just hose our horses off because that isn’t always sufficient to properly cool them out. This year, I brought an Equi Cool Down body wrap for my horse and my younger 5yo trail horse benefited from the ability to cool down faster than his other trail buddies when we got back to camp. It also allowed me to immediately cool him off, by putting the body wrap on as soon as the saddle was off. This gave me time to take his boots off and pick out his feet and hang up his tack without having to rush over to the hose. After hosing, we put the blanket back on so that he could continue to cool down, and he was quite happy for the relief as he’s not yet as fit as some of his more seasoned trail buddies.
All in all, keeping trail horses cool is every bit as important as keeping performance and sport horses cool. And of course, not every trail head or trail system has water available or water crossing where cooling out on trail is easy or even possible. In those cases, I always have a full set of Equi Cool Down gear on the trailer for myself and my horse, already wet down, in the great carry bags that they come in, so that when we get back, if water is limited, I know both me and my trail horse will be properly cooled out so that we can enjoy many more trails to come!
Have any trail cooling tips you can share? Post them in the comments, and let us know how you keep your trail horse cool. Happy trails!