Cooling Horses at the Steeplechase

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By Nancy Brannon, Ph.D.

Dr. Monty McInturff and his team of veterinarians at Tennessee Equine Hospital, Thompson’s Station, Tenn., have been volunteering as the official veterinarians for the Iroquois Steeplechase for 31 years, since 1991. They do the pre-race veterinary checks and are on-hand at various stations around the course on race day for any equine emergency. They have cooling stations set up at the finish line and on the walkway between the stable and the track with water hoses and water troughs.

One of Dr. McInturff’s innovative ideas is the “ice necklace” that the steeplechase horses wear after the race to help them cool down. They are shoulder-length veterinary exam gloves that are filled with ice, tied together, and draped across the horse’s neck and shoulders to help cool the vessels of the skin as they walk back to the barn. They can also be placed on the jugular vein to quickly cool the body. The “ice necklace” is now in standard use in steeplechase races across the country. In addition, the horses get hosed by multiple people, as well as have buckets of cool water poured on them.

Another cooling feature at the Iroquois Steeplechase are the misting fans provided by Wallace Trailers of Franklin, Tenn. With sunny skies temperatures hovering around 90°F, it was tempting to spend my time between races standing in front of them. Noticing that I was spending quite a bit of time by the misting fans, Guy Wallace came up to me and jokingly said, “The first two minutes are free, but we charge after that.” Then he invited me into one of his latest trailer offerings: a refrigerated trailer. Wow! What a cool place to spend time at the steeplechase. But it was short-lived as I couldn’t take photos from there.

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