In my part of the world, summer has held on long past its expiration date. Soaring temperatures and extreme drought have prevailed so long that I had almost given up on fall until the latter part of last week when a front came through and brought one of my favorite seasons to visit for a while. If you are from the South, you know exactly what early and even mid fall can be like. The mornings are brisk and it is best to dress warmly in layers. By the afternoon, however you are quickly shucking those layers off. Then dusk arrives and you are just as quickly adding those layers back.
Early and even mid fall find me trying to eke out as much riding as I can with the available daylight hours. Not an easy task when one also has a full-time job, a family, and a host of other responsibilities. I often find myself only being able to fit in a daily thirty minute ride. Since I’m no longer able to ride as long as I would like that means, those thirty minutes have to really count.
My horse lives outside twenty-four seven. While she does have a run-in shed, our farm does not have the amenity of a barn with stalls. She will accept blanketing on the coldest of days but would much prefer to be blanket free. That means that most types of body clipping aren’t an option for her. How then is the best way to cool down a hot horse with a winter coat so that they do not become chilled?
First, I tailor my rides so that she is unlikely to become excessively sweaty then the spend last portion of our ride as a cool down period for any sweat that did accumulate. After untacking I will then brush her coat. Much as with your own human hair, I have found that this allows the sweat matted hairs to separate and dry more quickly just as they would in nature. In some instances I will, to the extent possible, towel dry her.
If our training session went on longer than expected and she is damper than I anticipated, I will also apply a cooler made of wicking material. The drying period with the cooler usually isn’t extremely long and more often than not allows me to have a bonding time with her while she hand grazes. Complete day light isn’t completely necessary for this part and allows her to have some more natural “chew time” that she normally doesn’t get living on a dry lot.
This week-end I have enjoyed two amazing rides. The cool down period, longer than a simple hosing with cold water in summer followed by judicious use of the sweat scraper, has become just another part of after ride routine and another way to enjoy the changing seasons. By following these tips you too can continue to enjoy both cool and cold weather riding with your unclipped horse. Happy riding!