This is the time of year that we have all been waiting for. Finally, we are getting some warm weather. We need to keep in mind as we bring our horses back into work that they still have their winter coats on – winter coats that they can't take off.
Horses get and lose their winter coats depending on the length of daylight hours. That's why it sometimes seems like our horses get fuzzy when it's still hot outside. Or sometimes in the spring, it seems like the weather warms up significantly before our horses begin to shed their coat.
We need to keep in mind whether or not our horse was in work over the winter. Your horse may have stood around all winter long and is now a chubby, but adorable, fluff ball.
Nothing makes us want to get on and ride more than a warm spring day after a long cold winter. Just remember, your horse may be out of shape. That being said, he will most likely get sweated up pretty easily. Remember, we have to think of it as our horses are working out with a winter coat on that they can't take off.
On a warm day, it is easy for an unfit horse with a fuzzy winter coat to get hot and sweaty. It is important to take this into consideration when you are riding.
If your horse has a winter coat and gets very sweaty during the ride, you need to make sure you take the time to cool him off properly. We don't want our horses to be put away wet. It is not healthy for them. They can easily catch a chill and get sick.
Think of it this way, it's like your horse got very hot and sweaty with his winter coat on. As his body cools off, it is like he is wearing a wet winter coat. You can imagine how uncomfortable and unhealthy that is! You want to make sure that your horse is nice and dry before you put him away.
I have my students walk their horses out with half sheets on as they cool them off. This helps to get them nice and dry. If your horse is super sweaty, you may need to even walk him with a cooler on for a bit once he is untacked. You want to make sure that he is totally dry before you put him away.
One big mistake that I have seen people make when using coolers is getting off their horse, then throwing a cooler on it and putting it away in a stall. Not only should the horse be walked to get his breathing back to normal, but the cooler should not be left on the horse. Putting a cooler on a horse is not like them wearing a blanket to keep them warm. A cooler is meant to wick away the moisture from the horse's coat. Therefore, the cooler will end up damp or wet in order to dry out your horse.
Imagine wearing a wet coat in the cold. That is what it is like if you put a cooler on a sweaty horse and then leave it on them for an extended period. Once your horse is breathing normally again and drying up under the cooler, the cooler should come off.
Then I'd recommend giving your horse a good brushing. It will make him feel good and relax him. Not to mention, throughout the spring, if you start using the shedding blade before or after each ride, you can help your horse with the shedding process.
I don't know about you, but one of my favorite things to do is use a shedding blade on a fuzzy horse. Nothing is more rewarding than using a shedding blade for 10 or 15 minutes and seeing a big pile of winter coat when you are done!
Some older horses who get extra thick coats, especially horses with thyroid conditions, don't shed out as a normal horse would. It seems these types of horses want to hold on to their winter coats, sometimes practically until summer.
These types of horses may end up needing to be clipped. Just keep in mind that in the early spring the temperatures can still fluctuate. If you are going to body clip your older fluffier horse, make sure you are prepared with a light sheet or blanket to keep them warm when the temperature drops down at night.
We have been waiting all winter long for spring riding weather to arrive. Just make sure you are considerate of your horse and what is left of his winter coat. We want to make sure they are comfortable and cooled off properly after our rides.
It may seem like a hassle, but it is just for a short time. Soon the warm weather will be here to stay, your horse will shed out his winter fluff. He will be sleek and shiny. You will be giving him baths after you ride to cool him off instead of worrying about him being cold!
Be a responsible rider and horse owner and make sure you are considerate of how your horse feels working in his winter fluff when it is warm outside. Take the time to care for him and cool him out properly. It takes time, but anytime with horses is time well spent right?!
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