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Has anyone noticed where a horse sweats to indicate how he is working?

I have a non gaited TWH that I ride dressage. When we are working correctly he gets sweaty on his back, on the tops of his hindlegs and rump, and around the tail in addition to shoulder/chest and neck.

When I am not riding him forward and asking him for his haunches, he has majority sweat on shoulders/neck and chest with minor/no sweat anywhere else.

I have been teaching for a few years now and I feel like I have noticed a correlation of where a horse sweats - but I haven’t been able to find anything online backing it up - does anyone have thoughts?

An old horseperson and trainer I worked with for a long time always said that a horse will sweat from the area they are working - so a sweaty underside of the neck means that you are not working the neck correctly.

Personally, I always thought it was nuts. You sweat from sweat glands. When I run, ride, do yoga, or lift weights, I’m sweaty in all the same spots: chest, back, armpits, thighs (:dead:) etc. regardless which muscle group I’m working.

I had a trainer who used to say that you can tell a horse is working correctly off their hind end by the sweat in between their butt cheeks!

I’m not sure this is necessarily true…but I do notice that whenever we do a particularly challenging session or are working on a new level of activity, there is definitely more butt cheek sweat.

Yes, there is a correlation between sweaty spots and how the horse is working. I just came back from a three-day clinic with Siegfried Winkler and we noted how my gelding’s sweaty places indicated where he worked the hardest.

On the last day, we did some concentrated work on collected canter towards pirouettes. Gelding had marked sweating over the tops of his shoulders and base of neck by the withers. This was from the horse really supporting himself (carrying) in the collected work.

He regularly sweats to the point of foaminess between the hind legs. Also shows sweat along the hammies, under the back of the saddle and sometimes over the loin. Showing sweat on the belly is also a good indicator the horse is working the whole “ring of muscles”. It will be slighter than sweat in other places, but it will be there.

I see the butt cheek sweat regardless of how the horse was worked though - if it’s a hot day, butt cheek sweat. Even in the winter I see the sweat on the hindquarters and its not warm enough for them to sweat between the cheeks

Thanks ThreeFigs - thats what I was thinking as well. But you are saying that in the collected canter he had more sweat on the shoulders than the hq?
Interesting - I would have thought the other way around

My horse sweats all over!

I was taught a LONG time ago to look at the sweat on the hindquarters (as opposed to the shoulders) to determine if the horse was really carrying himself.

I seems to have a pretty good correlation.

I was taught a LONG time ago to look at the sweat on the hindquarters (as opposed to the shoulders) to determine if the horse was really carrying himself.

I seems to have a pretty good correlation.[/QUOTE]
I’ve noticed the same, mostly. But I did have a gelding once that sweated around his stifles all the time and he was not a reliable indicator of ‘sweating where he was working’ - he was a cheat and would put his neck/head in a false frame and you’d have to work harder than him to get him out of it.

when lunging and doing a lot of spiral in/outs, and my horse is really getting inside leg under him, he sweats over his rump more. I think it makes sense.

DressageStrider, I hope I’m expressing this clearly and correctly, but yes, we’ve been building my horse’s strength and stamina for the collected work over time. The sweaty back end indicates good hind engagement, but you are developing that through all the levels. As the collection increases, not only must the horse carry himself behind, but he also must lift himself in front. Again, this is developing through all the levels, but increases in difficulty the higher you go.

When his is really carrying himself (self-carriage) he’s working hard everywhere, not just in the hind end. He lowers his haunches, bends the hind joints more, and lifts his forehand, lightening in front. I suppose the extreme example of this is the Levade.

My horse is long-backed, so this collected work has been slow to develop and difficult for him. Also, he’s the first horse I’ve brought along to 4th Level, and I depend on my coach to guide me.

The lifting and lightening of the forehand is harder for a long-backed horse than it is for a short-backed one. So when he’s really working underneath himself and lifting his forehand, the effort is reflected in the sweat on the shoulders, withers and neck.

One other observation from my weekend clinic: Siegfried remarked on Figaro’s relatively steep shoulder – better for a jumper than a dressage horse. He will always lack the freedom and scope that a better shoulder might give him. Still we do the best we can.

I think different sweat patterns might indicate where a specific horse works harder due to conformation. It can also indicate incorrect work, as another poster said. Sweat along the bottom part of the neck (common with ewe-necked horses), indicates the horse is working the wrong muscles.

That makes a lot of sense - thanks ThreeFigs

I’ve also always heard this, but seriously, when I workout - if I do legs day in the gym, my legs don’t sweat more than my upper body, and vice versa. So while I like the idea, not sure it’s medically sound? I think it’s not so much that the hindquarters are working, but that if the horse isn’t used to working properly, they are overall working out harder, and therefore sweating more. This makes sense in humans as well - for example, a person can become used to riding a bicycle for 20 minutes, but then if they run for that amount of time, it’s harder because they are working new/weaker muscles.

But, but, you’re not a horse!

But, but, you’re not a horse![/QUOTE]


From the best ever source of information Wikipedia!!!

Apocrine sweat glands are mostly limited to the axilla (armpits) and perianal areas in humans.[8] They are not significant for cooling in humans, but are the sole effective sweat glands in hoofed animals, such as the camels, donkeys, horses, and cattle.

They don’t sweat like us at all.