You might hear horse riders and trainers talking about hot walkers for horses. But what exactly is a hot horse walker, and why are they used?
Hot walking is a common practice in horse training and has many advantages. However, it is important that you learn about hot walking to make sure that it is done properly. Let’s find out all about horse hot walkers and how to use them!
What Is A Horse Hot Walker?
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Now, this is a bit confusing, but the term horse hot walker can actually refer to two different things!
Traditionally, the phrase hot walker was used to describe a person who walked a horse in hand after a workout. This was normally a groom or stable worker.
However, as with all things, this job has now been mechanized! So the name hot walker is also used for a mechanical horse walking device.
Whether it is a person or a machine, both types of hot walkers do the same job. They are designed to walk horses at a steady pace for a long period of time.
Human Hot Walkers
A human hot walker is normally one of the lowest-paid members of staff in the stable yard team. This is considered an ‘entry-level’ position for junior employees, who aim to work up through the ranks. Using a low-paid groom to walk horses frees up the more highly paid riders for training and exercising horses.
Mechanical Hot Walker
Mechanical hot walkers are a very expensive piece of machinery to install, costing thousands of dollars. However, once purchased they can be used to walk several horses at once, reducing the need to employ human hot walkers.
The standard design of a hot walker is similar to a round pen, with a pivot in the middle. Four or six arms extend from this pivot, and a horse can be secure to the end of each arm. There may be individual partitions for horses to stop them from seeing each other.
Horses are put into the hot walker while it is stationary, and either tied to the arm or enclosed in the partition. The pivot then turns slowly, causing the arms to move in a wide circle – this gently encourages the horses to move forward. The timer can be set to walk the horses at different speeds for a set period of time.
What Are Hot Walkers Used For?
Hot walkers are used for cooling horses down after a period of intense exercise. This is particularly important if the horse is hot and sweaty. The use of horse walkers is popular in high-impact equestrian sports such as horse racing, endurance riding, and cross-country events.
Normally, horses would be cooled down with the rider still on board. Many of us are taught to walk the horse for the last 10 to 20 minutes of exercise and to never put a horse away which is still sweaty and blowing. Using a horse walker means the horse can be cooled down without the rider.
The aim of using a horse walker is that the horse’s temperature, pulse, and respiration should return to normal. Gentle walking will help to reduce muscular stiffness. Using a horse walker can also reduce the risk of conditions such as equine exertional rhabdomyolysis, also known as ‘tying up’.
How Are Horse Walkers Used?
Mechanical hot walkers are used after a horse is exercised to cool them down. They are also sometimes used to exercise the horse, as steady walking can help to build up stamina. Some trainers use hot walkers to warm up the horse before exercise.
It is vital that you know how to use a mechanical hot walker safely. It can take a long time and patient training to get a horse accustomed to being in a horse walker. Using a horse walker without the proper training can result in injury to the horse or handler.
There are also some basic health and safety rules which must be followed when using a horse walker:
- Horses must never be ridden inside a mechanized walker.
- The use of a horse walker must be supervised by a human at all times.
- Horses should be spaced as far apart as possible on the walker.
- Young and excitable horses are at a higher risk of injury if a mechanical walker is used.
Do I Need A Horse Hot Walker?
So, a mechanical horse walker sounds like a great time-saving device, but do you need one?
It all depends on what you use your horse for, how much free time you have, and what other facilities you have available.
If you have just one horse, then you will need to be present to walk it, whether this is ridden, in hand, or on a horse walker. The only way a horse walker becomes more efficient is if you have two or more horses to cool down at one time.
There are many other cheaper ways to cool a horse down after exercise. You can walk your horse in hand, either around the paddocks or in an all-weather arena. Walking your horse on the lunge is also an easy way to let them cool down and stretch their muscles.
However, if you are lucky enough to house your horse in a yard with a mechanical hot walker, then it can have many advantages! The hot walker can be used to exercise your horse during bad weather, or when you are unable to ride. It can also be used to rehabilitate your horse after injury and build up fitness and stamina.
So, as we have learned, a horse hot walker is used to cool a horse down after a period of vigorous exercise. A hot walker can either be a human being employed to walk the horse, or a mechanical horse walking device. Cooling a horse down after exercise helps to reduce stiffness and the risk of injury.
We’d love to hear about your experiences – maybe you know someone who worked as a hot walker? Or maybe you have questions about how to use a mechanical hot walker? Add a comment below this post and we’ll get back to you!