1. True or false: Very muscular or fat horses sweat a lot and therefore have an easier time cooling themselves than do sleeker, fitter horses.
T / F
2. True or false: The best way to cool a hot horse is to hose him down with the coldest water you can find, scrape it away, then repeat until the water you scrape away is cold.
T / F
3. When your horse is hot and sweaty, you should cover him with…
A) a cooler to ward off muscle cramps.
B) nothing at all—leave him naked.
C) wet towels to cool him down.
4. True or false: If you plan to work your horse on a very hot day, you should use the smallest saddle pad available, plus skip the boots or bandages if you can.
T / F
HOW’D YOU DO? (Answers below.)
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1. F is correct. Fat or bulky horses have a harder time cooling themselves. Specifically, when the heat index (outside temperature plus the relative humidity) is below 130 (such as 70 F with 50% humidity) most horses can keep their body cool, but very muscular or fat horses will have a harder time of it. When the heat index exceeds 150 (such as 85 F and 90% humidity), it’s hard for any horse to keep cool. And if the heat index exceeds 180 (such as 95 F and 90% humidity), a horse’s cooling system has almost no effectiveness.
2. T is correct. Hose-’n-scrape is the most effective cool-down strategy. Scientific studies have debunked the idea that bathing your horse in cold water will cause muscle cramps. The same studies demonstrated that colder water led to a faster cool-down. When you hose down your horse, the water remaining on his body immediately warms up, acting sort of like a “warm blanket” that will prevent him from cooling further. But if you scrape off the water and hose him down again, even more heat will be transferred away from his body, helping him to cool.
3. B is correct. Because rapid cooling does not lead to muscle cramping or tying-up, putting a cooler on your hot horse is unnecessary and even detrimental. Even an anti-sweat sheet or cold towels will trap warm heat against your horse’s body and prevent the airflow that can help carry heat away. Your best option is to let your horse remain naked while he cools.
4. T is correct. Allow your horse’s skin to be exposed to the air; the cooling effect will be especially effective if there’s a breeze. If you think your horse is overheating during exercise, immediately remove all tack to allow the air to reach his body surface. The risk of heatstroke is increased by above-average work demands and a heat index over 125 (total of the outside temperature plus the relative humidity).
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