how to dry the wet horse

How to dry the wet horse when it’s cold!


  • There’s not much more time-consuming at the barn than a wet horse with a winter coat. In the summer, a damp horse is not a big deal; he will quickly dry because it’s hot and his coat is short.


  • In the winter, your horse grows a coat that is usually impervious to moisture. It’s literally designed to shrug off water and leave him warm.


  • Fun fact, the same shine-boosting natural oils called sebum that shines him up in the summer help with waterproofing his winter coat. One more reason to curry more and avoid using detergents.


Horses can get soaked in a few situations:


  • Your horse has been sweating. Usually, after exercise, a horse with a winter coat will soak himself from the inside out. Sweat happens if the weather does a weird warm-up or the blanket is too much for the temperatures. Which reminds me, don’t blanket a wet horse with anything other than a cooler! They need to dry.


  • Your horse had a bath. It’s not always ideal for giving your horse a bath in the winter, but it can be done. With warm water and a solarium, or the weather is strangely warm, or perhaps there’s a skin issue or massive stain.


  • He’s been in the rain for too long. Some horses may not have the natural coats to repel water or have been out in the elements too long. The rain and weather have simply beaten your horse’s hair at its own game. There are plenty of horses out there with compromised diets, medical issues, sub-par winter coats, and just plain old bad luck that may get soaked to the skin in cold weather.


sweaty horse with girth marks

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


How do you dry the wet horse in winter?


  • First, it’s essential 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 body temperature is below about 98 or above 103, please call your veterinarian for instructions. It’s rare for horses to develop hypothermia due to a falling body temperature, but it can happen. For more information on how horses regulate their body heat in the winter, read this.


  • Proper cool down after exercise is critical to return his body temperature to normal and then begin the drying process. Or, you may need to warm him up if he’s wet to the skin and cold.


  • Monitor your horse’s coat as he dries. The drying process may heat him back up and cause more sweating, and then he will take even longer to dry.


The next steps to take, once you are on top of his temperature


  • Use towels and massage your horse! I find that using smaller towels and dish towels is more manageable than large bath towels. Remove as much moisture as you can, grabbing fresh towels as needed. Some high-tech towels trap loads of water but use what you have.


  • 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.


  • Skip the Irish knit style of coolers. These are cotton and will soak up I moisture, but it will still rest against your horse. Save these for warmer weather.


gray horse in green wool cooler grazing

Wool coolers are the best!



  • Keep your horse out of the wind and drafts as he dries. You might be able to let some sunshine warm him up if there’s no breeze.


  • Check your horse’s cooler often and change to a dry one when needed. Use a stiff brush to go against the hair coat’s direction to fluff it up, too.


  • 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 under the cooler that helps him dry quickly.


  • Give him some forage to eat and create some warmth on the inside. This might take some time, but it also gives your horse something to do besides just standing around being wet.


old photo of a horse with straw in his blanket

Old school method. It works.


Some safety points here:


  • Your cooler should have leg straps if your horse wears it in his stall or paddock. Some coolers are much more decorative than functional, so be sure it can be safely strapped to your horse.


  • Keep checking your horse’s temperature. Use a thermometer! As he dries, he should have a normal body temperature.


  • 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. Heck, he may also want to chew on his outfit! He might like a hay net instead.



horse cooler with neck piece

Some awesome coolers like this WikSmart have belly bands and neckpieces. You can also layer coolers.


As your horse dries, you may want to do some grooming.


  • Curry combing can undoubtedly help his body feel better as you massage along. This will start to flake off any dried sweat that’s going on, too.


  • If things are dry and there’s a bunch of crusty stuff going on, bust out a cactus cloth to buff any sweat marks out. Grooming gloves and a really stiff brush can do this, too.


How do you dry your wet horse in the winter?


go shopping button for horse products

If you want to easily shop for some horse grooming tools, I have you covered! As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases, which are not a penny more for you. I couldn’t be more grateful for your support!


This is a super fancy cooler with a belly cover! It’s like folding a fitted sheet, but it covers almost all of your horse.

This is a traditional wool cooler, and yes, it’s just a square of wool.

This wool cooler makes more sense, it’s affordable and it fits better than a wool sheet.

For temperature taking!

For vital sign monitoring, just in case his temp is askew.

For grooming some sweat marks off your horse.

Thank you!