Yes, they do! Like other animals that have sweat glands, horses have sweat glands, too.
Sweating is very important for a horse. Sweating is part of a horse’s cooling system to relieve heat build-up.
A horse can sweat (and should sweat) during exercise; may sweat when it is in pain, under duress, or ill; and may sweat when nervous. You will see horses sweat when going on a trail ride, running in a race, even while being trailered. Remember, sweat is both a sign of a healthy horse, but can also be a sign of a horse that needs help.
How Do Horses Sweat?
According to Dr. Duncan Peters, DVM, horses sweat so that they can cool themselves off and reduce their temperature back to normal.
As Peters explains, “During exercise, muscles generate heat; heat is a byproduct of energy metabolism.”
Horses dispose of heat through breathing and through its skin. If these actions are not enough to reduce heat build-up, a horse’s sweat glands start working by pumping out sweat. A horse’s sweat is different from a human’s sweat in that it does contain water, but also has more electrolytes than humans. (Electrolytes are dissolved minerals). On some horses you may actually see this loss of electrolytes. If you see white foam or lather on a horse, this is a sign that the horse is losing electrolytes. This lather is typically seen between the horse’s hind legs and on their neck where the reins make contact with their hide.
Most horses drink between 10 and 20 gallons of water per day. That’s a lot of water, but not for a horse, given its body size. When a horse is exercising, it can lose approximately four gallons of sweat per hour. Of course, this depends on the weather, how much the horse is exercising, how long the horse is exercising, and the level of the horse’s fitness.
Keeping Your Horse Comfortable
There are several ways to cool down your horse after exercise. Walk your horse out until its breathing becomes normal. How long you will need to walk your horse depends upon how much exercise you did, the fitness level of your horse, and the air temperature. The more humid the air temperature, the longer it will take for your horse to cool down. Most horse owners and riders walk their horses out, put the horse on cross ties, take off the horse’s tack, and then will give the horse a bath or will squirt the horse down with water.
One of the best ways to cool down your horse is to use a horse shower. A horse shower is an excellent way to clean off your horse’s sweat. Horse showers of the portable kind allow you to give your horse a complete bath with warm water anytime, anywhere. Warm water helps to get rid of sweat residue left on the horse’s skin after they cool off. It is important to get this residue off your horse as it can lead to skin conditions that may require medication to heal. Warm water also helps to reduce muscle soreness. And, using a horse shower means your horse will never need to endure a cold bath again!
A horse that sweats after exercise is a good thing. It tells you that the horse’s system is working, as it should. To keep your horse’s sweat-system healthy, make sure that your horse has fresh water at all times. Even if you are showing or going on a trail ride, make sure to offer your horse water throughout the day, at least once an hour. Do not wait until you get back to your trailer or barn to give your horse water.
If your horse is sweating excessively (whether or not they are exercising), try to keep your horse on its feet and walking, if at all possible and call a veterinarian immediately. Excessive sweating may be a sign of an underlying illness or condition that requires medical attention.
It is always a good idea to give your horse a bath or wash them off with warm to cool water (depending upon the air temperature). Using a horse shower is an excellent way to wash away sweat, dirt, and grime, making your horse clean and feeling good!