Years ago when I got back into horses, I competed in NATRC competitive trail rides. I am thankfun for those experiences. It taught me a lot about taking care of my horses.
As riders we need to be familiar with whats NORMAL
for each of our horses. Whats a normal resting pulse, Whats a normal respiration, what are normal signs of hydration. If you will learn to take these reading while your horse is resting, then compare them after work while riding, You will be able to see when or if the horse gets stressed.
Most horses should return close to a resting Pulse and Respiration after a 10 minute rest. For most horses that will be 12 heart beats or breaths in a 15 second count. Now many Arab and top conditioned endurance horses will have 4-5 beats in 15seconds. So don't be surprised if you horse is less than the recommended 12 , but do worry if they are over that number. Most vet checks during competition will hold a horse an additional 10 minutes if they don't come down to a resting rate during the 1st 10 minute rest. If at the end of 20 minutes, they have not achieved a resting rate, they are pulled from proceeding any farther down the trail.
During the rest period, You look at hydration. Pressing on the gum and counting the capillary refill time, pulling a skin tent on the shoulder, listening to gut sounds all give you an indication of if the horse is staying hydrated. Again you want to compare these results to numbers you have aquired when the horse was rested and not working.
Since I ride a lot in the high deserts of Utah, water is not always available. So we give the horses ample opportunity to drink at any available water.
During the warmer months. I often carry a spong on a string. I can drop the sponge into any water I pass and squeeze it out on the horses neck or rump with out having to get off or even stop. This helps in two ways, First the water cools the skin and the waters evaporation continues to cool the skin and help disapate heat. Second, the water washes off any sweat that may have acculated on the horse. If sweat is thin and watery it helps disapate heat. But if it becomes a lather, it can actually inhibit the disapersetion of heat from the muscle. So rinsing it off helps the horse to stay cool.
If we stop for a lunch break or vet check during competition, I often pull the saddle and blanket. Removing this tack, allows the horse to loose heat through his back, which provides for a quicker recovery. During any stops I allow the horse to graze on any green grass that may be available. In fact on rides where there are not a lot of strange horses, I carry a set of hobbles and hobble my horse to let them graze at will while I enjoy lunch.