Strapping, Part 1 – Cooling Down Your Horse

Cooling Off Techniques for Horses at Competition

I was prompted to write a series of articles on the correct strapping of the horse after attending competitions and witnessing competitors strapping their horses in very unusual ways! After speaking to some of these people, I have come to realise that riders have not been specifically taught how to strap their horse.


Many people associate strapping with the application of gear and tack to your horse. What people don’t always realise is that strapping also encompasses everything from tacking up your horse properly to returning it to a state of normal heart rate, temperature and metabolic state; essentially the returning of your horse to a normal resting state after work or competition.

My passion is endurance riding and strapping your horse is an integral part of being successful in your completion of the ride. In this article, I shall explore the correct cooling down procedures of our equine athletes.

Correct cooling down is the key to helping your horse recover their heartrate, muscle tone and general wellbeing. Good recovery of the horse is of paramount importance in any equestrian discipline – regardless of whether it is polocrosse, eventing, endurance, dressage or even pony club!

So, here is how you can help your horse recover faster and better at any competition:

1. The management of your horse’s temperature is directly related to how much sweat they have produced during work or competition. For example, it is easier to manage a clipped horse than one with a full winter coat. A horse that has a full winter coat will chill easily with a cold breeze, therefore your first priority will be ensuring that the horse doesn’t get cold. To avoid this, a towel or rug can be placed over the loins to keep the kidneys warm. The type of towel or rug placed over the horse will be dependent on the horses’ coat, amount of sweat and outside temperature.

2. If your horse is very hot and needs to be cooled down fast, you can strap the horse with water to help reduce the heart rate more quickly. The temperature of the water used should never be icy cold. If you put very cold water on a hot horse, this may cause the horse’s muscles to contract. This contraction of muscles may cause muscle spasms. You will want to make sure that the water used is tepid and has had the chill taken off. It is not sufficient to wet your horse and then not scrape off the excess water. The excess water must be scraped off their body. Missing this step will cause a layer of heat to be trapped in that coat - the direct opposite of what you are trying to achieve! You can go through this process as many times as is necessary to bring your horse’s temperature back to normal.

On exceptionally warm days you can assist your horse to dry out faster, and cool down faster, by following these additional steps.

3. After you have gone through the water strapping procedure outlined above, comb the horses coat in the opposite direction of hair growth with your fingers to create more of an air-conditioning effect by lifting the hair. Take caution and only do this if it is a very hot day because you can actually give the horse a chill.

4. Walking your horse is very important as part of the cooling down process. The reason to keep your horse moving is all about keeping their muscles loose and supple. You know yourself that when you exercise if you do not warm up properly or cool down properly you are likely to suffer either lactic acid build up or injury. Lactic acid build-up is painful and means that you will take longer to recover. Step one starts with being fit enough to compete in the first place! That is the topic of a whole other article.



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