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What is a Hot Walker?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated: Mar 02, 2024

A hot walker is either a stable hand or machine that walks race horses directly after they've raced to help them cool down. Race horses, like human exercisers, need to cool down gradually from their workouts. Stopping running or other vigorous exercising abruptly could result in poor blood circulation that can cause the body to go into shock. Up to five minutes is typically all it takes to get the heart, breath and blood functioning at normal rates after intense exercise. Both the human and mechanical types of hot walker should vary the speed and direction in which the horses walk for their cool down to help keep the animals interested rather than bored.

Formal education and training is seldom offered or required for those who wish to become a hot walker. Instead, a fairly common way to get this type of work is for aspiring hot walkers to report to the main gate at racetracks. Horse owners may need a person with hot walking skills. Being comfortable around horses is a necessary characteristic for hot walkers. People providing hot walking services must always act out of concern for the horse's safety and well-being.

A hot walker usually lives near horse racing tracks. He or she typically loves horses and has experience working with them on farms or other property with stables. Being able to direct and care for horses while maintaining their safety at all times is an important quality for aspiring hot walkers. Stable hands who wish to become hot walkers in horse stables may have to do a few volunteer hot walks before getting references that lead to paying jobs.

Automated hot walking machines vary in their design. Their basic structure consists of a middle base section with spokes that rotate around it that gives them an almost carousel-like appearance. The spokes may reach upward or face downward. Each spoke holds a rope that attaches to one horse's halter to allow it a comfortable length from which to walk in a circle.

So that horses don't become bored walking repetitively in a circle, many automated hot walkers can be set so to change directions. Some of these hot walking machines have speed change settings to vary the pace of the horse's cool down walk. Hot walking machines are available in many types, from simple to deluxe. Models with a roof are designed to keep horses dry in rainy weather. The capacity of an automated hot walker varies from two to eight horses or sometimes more.

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Discussion Comments
By lluviaporos — On Feb 10, 2012

Horses are actually surprisingly delicate for being such large and strong animals.

I had quite a few lessons when I was a kid and I was obsessed with horse books as well. I remember one day the horse I was riding came down with a colic. She began to sweat heavily and got all lathered.

The woman insisted I keep riding her, since she needed to be kept moving, but the poor thing kept trying to sit down.

She also made sure we always walked our horses around for a bit after trotting, so that they would cool down. It's definitely a good habit to get into.

I remember reading about a horse being put away hot in Black Beauty and how it ruined the horse for life and I really took that part of my lessons to heart. I think every young rider should be made to read that particular book, it has a lot of good advice about horses.

By KoiwiGal — On Feb 10, 2012

@bythewell - I always thought it was kind of funny, actually, since it's not like they can claim ignorance. They must have a hot walker on the set after all, if they are using horses, since it would be considered animal cruelty to leave a horse standing after a hard ride.

I always thought that would be kind of a cool job, looking after the horses on a movie set. Although I've heard that the horses often come with their own trainer and that the horses and trainer are just contracted either through a company or as independents.

So, I'd have to get and train my own horses if I even wanted a chance at being a hot walker on a movie set I guess.

By bythewell — On Feb 09, 2012

This was one of the things that always bugged me in movies with horses. Often the "hero" is seen galloping in somewhere at full speed, where they leap off the horse and just leave it there, or even worse, tie it up or stable it without cooling it down.

You just can't do that without harming the horse. I can see in movies where the horse gets handed over to a stablehand, since they probably acted as hot walkers and cooled the horse down for the riders back then.

But even if the rider is going to a village, or riding their own horse in a modern movie, this is done.

I get it, that it's not exciting to see someone cool down a horse by walking it for five minutes but this is really the equivalent of people looking anywhere but the road when driving in a film. To anyone who knows better, it just makes it look fake.

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