The bath is an important part of the cooling down process for your horse during the summer months, but you have to do it right.
Even a light workout during the summer can leave your horse hot and sweaty, and when that happens it's time bath time. Like overly large children, many horses don't enjoy their bath, but it is vital for horse owners to coax them through this important part of the cool-down process anyway.
Whether you choose to employ the bucket and sponge method or go all-out with the barn hose, here are a few points for bathing horses to keep in mind.
Don't just let warm water sit there.
The best method for cooling down a horse will probably always be under debate. However, thanks to new studies, most equestrians at least agree that one round of water doesn't do the job when dealing with a hot horse, as water heats up quickly to the match horse's body temperature and can even act as insulation and make the wet horse hotter.
Instead of just hosing or sponging once and expecting the horse to cool, use a sweat scraper to remove the heated water, excess moisture, and soapy water, and then hose or sponge fresh, cooler water on. Continue this process until the water you scrape off is no longer warm and there's no more soap residue.
Respect your horse's feelings.
Sure, some horses don't seem to mind excess water dripping all over their faces, but most do. If your horse doesn't seem thrilled with the idea, it is probably best to respect that fact instead of making bath time an unpleasant experience for them.
When hosing, be sure to aim the hose toward your horse's tail end, avoiding their face and ears, and use a well wrung-out, wet sponge on their face instead. Use common sense and listen to your horse's body language.
Get between the back legs.
The poll, jugular vein, corotid and femoral arteries are the most useful spots to target when you need to cool a horse quickly, but the femoral artery (which can be accessed between the horse's back legs) is important for another reason as well.
If not rinsed or sponged after a hard ride, sweat can build up between the horse's legs and cause a number of problems, including chafing. When chafing, some horses may begin rubbing their tails and some may even appear lame, but it can all be prevented by a quick rinse between the back legs. Just be careful to not get kicked in the process.
Consider the benefits of liniment.
If your horse has been working extra hard, you may want to consider adding some liniment to his bath water. While liniment is not a cure-all, it can be effective in lessening inflammation, providing pain relief, and can even help in the cool-down process.
Don't get your horse's feet too wet.
Too much moisture can lessen the structural integrity of your horse's hooves. This isn't a problem for most horses, but if you plan to bathe your horse excessively, you may want to consider sponge baths rather than hose baths, so you are better able to control the flow of the water and avoid your horse's feet.
This is especially important if your horse wears leather pads under his shoes, as the water can warp the pads or get trapped underneath the pads and lead to problems like thrush.
By following these proper bathing techniques, you can help your horse beat the heat this summer!
How do you give your horses baths? Tell us in the comments below.
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