How do I dry my wet horse in the winter?


There’s not much more time consuming at the barn than a wet horse with a winter coat.  In the summer, a wet horse is not a big deal, he will dry quickly because it’s hot and his coat is short.  In the winter, he grows a coat that is usually impervious to moisture and is designed to shrug off water by itself. 


BUT…..A horse in winter, with a big natural hair coat, can get wet down to the skin in a few situations:  


He’s been sweating.  Usually after exercise, but a horse with winter coat can also sweat because he has too much coat for the temperature that day. 


He’s been given a bath.  It’s not ideal to give your horse a bath in the winter, but it can be done, or perhaps he needed one to treat a skin issue.  


He’s been in the rain for too long.  Some horses may not have the natural coats to repel water, or they have been out in the elements too long and the rain and weather has simply beaten the hair at it’s own game.  There are plenty of horses out there with compromised diets, medical issues, poor winter coats, and just plain ol’ bad luck that may get soaked to the skin.  



Migs is only slightly sweaty here, and only slighty fuzzy.  One more month = YAK.


How do you dry him off?

First, it’s important to know that his body temperature is normal.  Checking a wet horse’s TPR can let you know if he’s still warm (from exercise) or he’s cold (from being in the elements).   If his temperature is below about 98 or above 103, please call your Veterinarian for instructions and over heating and hypothermia are dangerous situations.  Proper cool down after exercise is critical to return his body temperature to normal and then begin the drying process. Otherwise, the drying process may heat him back up and cause more sweating, and then he will take even longer to dry.  


Let’s jump to the part where your horse’s temp is normal, and it’s cold outside, and he is wet.  


Use towels and massage!  I find that using hand towel sized rags are more manageable than bath towel size.  Remove as much moisture as you can, grabbing fresh towels as needed.  There are also some high tech towels that trap loads of moisture. 


Cover up with coolers!  Horse coolers allow the moisture to wick away from his skin and into the fabric.  Wool is best, it’s heavy, warm, and you may even be able to see the moisture bead on the outside of the cooler as your horse dries.  Fleece coolers are good, too, they are affordable and easy to care for.  I would skip the irish knit style, these are cotton and will soak up some moisture, but it will still rest against your horse.  Although I do love them in the summer after a bath!



Wool coolers are the best!

Keep him out of the breeze when it’s cold and he is wet.  Give him some forage to eat and create some warmth on the inside.  Check your horse’s cooler often and change to a dry one when needed.  Use a stiff brush to go against the direction of his hair coat and fluff it up.


One old school method of drying your wet fuzzy horse is to stuff his cooler with hay or straw.  This creates an airy insulating layer that helps him dry quickly.



Old school method.  It works.  

Some safety points here: 


  • Your cooler should have leg straps if your horse is going to wear it loose in his stall or paddock.  One roll and it all becomes a tangled mess.  
  • A wet horse can develop hypothermia easily, which is why proper drying is critical.  Check his temperature to be sure he’s staying within the normal limits.  
  • Call your Veterinarian if he is overheated when you return from riding or his temperature is dropping as he dries. Anything above about 103 or below about 98 warrants a call.  Also call if he is not returning to his normal TPR as he dries. 
  • If you do stuff his blanket with hay or straw, don’t turn him loose with buddies as they may try and nibble on him.  Also give him a pile or net of hay to eat instead of snacking on his hay stuffed outfit. 



Some awesome coolers have belly bands and neck pieces.  You can also layer coolers. 


How do you dry your wet horse in the winter?