Why buy a high neck cooler when I can improvise and embarrass
my horse more than a mom waving from a mini van? Yes, this did get posted on facebook!
No, I do have a plan to the madness. I have two coolers, as I mentioned in the last post; net mesh and fleece. I like to have two for those late fall baths when I don't feel good leaving her uncovered, and if it's a bath, she's wet enough to need a swap as she dries. The net works well for when I want something between the horse and the elements - I want to keep muscles warm, keep bugs off, etc. The fleece I use to give the moisture somewhere to go, and to keep the horse from cooling down too quickly and shivering. I don't like to put horses away wet. Perhaps it's my traditional training, but I can't bring myself to do it. Even though I was good and didn't, my mare still got the most impossible case of rain rot from wearing a wet blanket for too long - moisture, plus heat, plus dark equals IMPOSSIBLE to get rid of the critters once they get started.
So let's not let them get started.
Foxie did well clipped at the last barn, because it was heated, and sometimes her blankets, to be turn out appropriate, were too warm for the barn. With her belly and neck base clipped, she wasn't nearly as sweaty under the blankets, and not nearly so sweaty when I got off after a ride. I don't clip too short - just enough to be a little shorter than a summer coat, since the winter coat is bushier. Most rides, as long as I took a few laps walking with my girth loosened, I would end up with a mostly dry horse. A little bit of toweling and back and forth combing later, I had a dry horse to re-blanket and throw outside.
The cooler wicks the sweat away allowing the horse to dry more quickly, but keeps them warm so they don't get chilled.
The quarter sheet works much the same way, allowing the haunches and back to be kept warm during a flat ride. Foxie is a cold backed horse, meaning that she is always a little hot to trot when you get on due to some back discomfort, usually due to her refusal to work in a frame and grow a topline. Once she did begin to build her topline, the quarter sheet was a great tool for warming up and cooling out, as it keeps the chill down, and keeps the muscles from cooling too quickly or being too stiff warming up. I usually do my grooming, throw the quarter sheet over the haunches, saddle up, pull the sheet forward and tuck it up (mine is square and I can't ride with spurs unless I tuck the ends under the saddle flaps, unlike above). This tactic of pre-warming and cooling out makes so much sense when I began to do it on myself - seat heater before a winter dressage lesson meant I was less stiff in the saddle, and was able to stay warm and ride more effectively, because my back wasn't tight. Magic!
Coolers and, to a point, quarter sheets, are super useful tools.
I wouldn't use one as a blanket liner, because Foxie got the static crazies and tried to tear her liner off - it ended up wrapped around her legs and trailing out from under her blanket, doing more harm than the layer would do good.
Think about getting off of a work out or out of the shower and walking around a cool room, or outside, without a layer on to keep you from getting too cold, or something to dry you off. Not pleasant, eh? Horses run warmer than us, and they appreciate being warm!
As always, make sure to give your horse EXTRA warm up time in the winter - stretching before you mount will help avoid a bucking, sore-backed horse, along with several walking laps, with an emphasis on stretching down to help avoid muscle stiffness or injury. Add several walking laps on a loose rein at the end of your ride, too! This will relax you both, let you cool down from your ride- and helps you work on that free walk that you've been getting counted down on in dressage :)
Straight from the Fox's mouth,