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Exercise, Cool Down, and Hay
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Exercise, Cool Down, and Hay

A short re-wind to yesterday first: I was feeding Cookie her evening meal when I saw steam coming from the new round bale I got on Tuesday. At first I thought it was dust, but when I kept pulling the hay, more and more came wafting upwards and dissipating. I pulled off my glove and shoved my hand in between the layers to find very hot hay. I became alarmed because I have always heard there is a possibility of hay spontaneously combusting. Moving into alert mode, I put a call in to my hay supplier, my sister, and the fire department. The temperature of the hay (that I could reach to test) was 115-120 degrees. I decided to do a google search and though some of the information was a bit conflicting, in general that temp is O.K. but if it rises to 150 degrees, you've either got a fire in the middle of the bale, or it's on its way to becoming one. Rather than take any chances, my neighbor helped me roll this 1000 + lb bale out into the open, away from trees and structures so it could "sweat" and prayerfully not catch on fire. I'll continue to monitor it today and will continue to do so for the next several weeks. If you didn't know, hay can take months to "cure" or stop sweating completely. 

Now on to today. I had to think about how I am going to handle this situation because Cookie has open access to this bale of hay. I have an exit plan in place should there be an emergency so that takes a small load off of my mind. The other issue I face is with Cookie. Keeping an eye on her so she doesn't colic or founder due to being able to free feed off of this bale. The plan I have thus far is to exercise her every morning when it's cool, bring her in and hose her off if she gets hot and wait about 20 minutes before turning her loose so she won't just go and eat right after exercising. 

This morning it wasn't all that cool. The humidity was quite high and the temperature was rising quickly so our workout was kept to just 30 minutes. We walked down to the lot we use and thankfully a breeze was blowing. Well, on one hand it was wonderful, on the other it made Cookie high as a kite. lol 

We started out walking in both directions and then up to a trot. I didn't want her to get overheated so we didn't go any faster although the blowing plastic bag didn't help keeping her in check. Then we walked over to the ditch to walk up and down the ditch and something caught her eye. A cat. It was down the street, quite a ways from us and I suppose she thought it was a huge monster making its way toward us, and instead it kept going on its merry way in the other direction. Then her ear and eye caught a man down at the end of another street on a lawn mower. As you can tell her concentration was 0 at that point. 

I asked her to move forward and instead she pinned her ears and backed up stomping her front feet. Ugh! <sigh> Ok! Take a breath, relax. I asked her to "come up". She came up and I asked her to move forward towards the ditch. NOPE! Ear pin, back up, and stomp feet. Grr... Ok. When I stepped forward towards the ditch, she took off across the ditch like something had popped her butt. When she got to the other side she caught sight of these cement blocks on the side of a building and started blowing at them. We walked across the street, down the ditch and right up to them so she could smell what they were. 

I asked her then if she was alright now and could we get back to work before it got hotter. lol! Back across the street and I pushed her forward and around me. Now we got down to business for 3 full circles. Then comes the plastic bag. (Inert face slap here.) She wanted to jump straight up when it got closer to her and she did flinch a bit. She stuck her head down to that bag, smelled it and just stood there while it blew all around her legs. I could tell she didn't like it, but she wasn't about to move. Finally the bag went on and we finished our ditch work with 2 more circles. 

When we got home, Cookie wasn't breathing hard or really sweating (even though I was drenched) but I took her splint boots off, hosed her down, and lunged her at the walk for about ten inutes both ways until her breathing was completely normal and her skin was cool to the touch. She was still wet from the hose, but I put her fly boots on and turned her loose anyway, so that she could roll or eat or whatever she wanted to do. 

I re-checked the temperature of the hay, made sure Cookie had cool water, and then went and sat down to cool off myself. All in all, it's been quite the eventful day. 


Thank you for checking out my blogs. I appreciate all comments. 

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  1. jst4horses
    I love Rene for sharing this article and do not want to insult her. BUT I have worked with and trained high performance race and show horses. A little trot is not a hot horse. While it is nice to care for a trail horse with a wash down (our horses live at a ranch that is building a pond for the horses because they love to play in the water) it is not good to water a truly hot horse. At the track and in good performance barns a truly HOT horse is walked, almost a mile, with or without a cooling sheet, depending on the weather. then four bottles of alcohol are poured over the entire horse and the horse is walked out for twenty minutes or so, After five or ten minutes the horse is given a small bucket of water and allowed to drink ONE or TWO gulps, then walked again. Before two many gulps the horse is brought in and washed with soap and hot water in less than two minutes. Then walking, small gulps starts again. The heat of the horse is often not in relation to the work, experienced grooms and handlers know how to feel the heat in the muscles and often even feel the tenseness in the muscles before allowing an extra gulp until about thirty or more minutes the horse can have the whole small bucket of water. Then ten minutes later another. A horse out on a trail ride with a bit of trotting and snorting is not truly a hot horse. This horse would be happiest with a good turn out in a round corral or arena and let to roll to hearts content.The hay. I do not like rolled hay. It is often used for cows, you actually are the first person I have heard of using it for stalled horses. Cows have stomachs that can deal with heat mildews and fungus, horses can not, some forms can kill them. I think today because more and more dealers are selling hay in rolls, because it is cheaper for them and more profitable than bales, it is becoming more used. Even baled hay has to be watched. I would talk to the vet and use a good pellet, or cubed hay, do not buy too many bags at at time, smell the feed when you open the bag. Horses can not eat feeds that have been damp and then dried. Again mildew and fungus have started growing.I find it scary to have hot hay around horses. I am from California, we have baled, very dry hay available year round. Occasionally hay comes in that was not cured properly or comes in during a rain storm and has some wet areas. It steams, or feels hot. We throw it out.I always love your stories, but would suggest finding a good natural horsemanship clinic to attend, and find yourself a good practice group near your stable with other natural horsemanship owners. Your horse has some habits that are troubling, and can be worked out much more easily in a clinic. Horses learn from each other as well as humans learning from each other. Bad habits can lead to worse ones if not nipped in the bud. In natural horsemanship a horse that panics (that is the stomped down front feet, dug in rear feet and laid back ears) and is not able to trust you more on the trail is going to cause a bad accident someday. This is something you can learn at a clinic and practice in a round corral or arena so Cookie builds more trust in you. When you are the lead mare, she will not even glance at scary things unless you do first and say it is ok to get away, and she will leave the scene under your control, not her panic. The horses job is to not change gaits, or direction without your permission. Stopping is changing gaits.Best of luck. Years of experience and a few bad injuries lead me to suggest these things. Lighten up in the loving horsey care. The most important part of cooling out a hot horse is to let those stretched muscles cool down so they do not spasm and cause problems in the intestine, which is where they seem to head.
    1. Rene Wright
      Rene Wright
      Not insulted at all. I appreciate the insight, comments and suggestions. Just to mention, her ear pinning and stomping occur when she "thinks" she's going to get away with something.. or she isn't going to do what is asked. I think I have come across as a "powder puff" when really I'm not. I'll ask something and wait for her to respond. If it's not what I'm asking I'll continue asking until she gives me the right answer. In other words, we don't stop what we're doing until she does it right. She tests me sometimes, sure... once she realizes it's my way or a ton of work she backs off. We really need to spend more time out and away than we do, so perhaps incorporating earlier morning times out would be more beneficial to both of us. I will certainly look into finding a clinic or trainer in my area. It's good to have outside input :)

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