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.