Ask the horse expert: To scrape or not to scrape?

University of Minnesota Extension
A horse grazes in a pasture.

Question: Can you please help settle a heated debate at our barn. To cool a hot horse, do you scrape or not scrape off the water? 

Response: The debate over scraping water off a hot horse is common in the horse industry. However, recent research has helped settle this debate once and for all.

The quickest way to cool a hot horse is to continuously run cool water over the horse with a hose. If an unlimited water supply is available, there is no reason to stop and scrape off the water, which takes time away from applying the water and cooling the horse. Recent research conducted in Australia found that applying cold water without scraping cooled horses faster compared to scraping. 

However, if owners are trying to cool a hot horse with a limited supply of water (e.g., when camping or on a trail ride), most suggest applying the water, scraping it off, and then applying more water. In the absence of continuous water, scraping can help encourage evaporative cooling.   

Other tips to help cool a hot horse include:

  • Offering cool drinking water
  • Focusing water application to the head, back, neck, rump and legs
  • Applying ice to high blood flow areas including the head, neck, back and ribs (avoid applying ice to the large gluteal muscles)
  • Using fans
  • Housing horses in shady areas
  • Removing all tack (except the halter or bridle), leg wraps, blankets and/or fly sheets.