It has been a long, hot, couple of summer months and although we caught a short break from this savage heatwave, temperatures are forecast to climb again.
There’s no complaining from us, having the hottest summer in 40 years has been wonderful - for the most part that is. While you would love to get out on a sunny day and ride with your horses, it can be dangerous in this heat.
So, based on the expert advice of Janet Johnston, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, ACVS, who works as an emergency critical care veterinarian at University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine’s New Bolton Centre, we’ve put together this list to help you help your horse deal with hot weather. You can find the full article here.
Choose cooler turnout times. Instead of turning your house out in the middle of the day during the peak heat, turn them out in the early mornings and in the evening when it has cooled down a bit. If possible, leaving them out overnight might be the best option! If your grass is suffering from the heat, leave additional feed out to keep your horse maintained.
Provide shade. If you have to keep your horse outside all day make sure they have some sort of shelter from the sun. Shade from trees can work fine, but just make sure that they provide shade at all times of the day. Field shelters are a great way to provide not only shade but a cool place to keep water troughs for them as well.
Create airflow. If you can create airflow that takes the heat out of the stalls in your stables, this will benefit your horse more than a fan pushing air into the stall. If you don’t have this option, use a fan to pull the hot air out, and just make sure your horse can’t reach the cords and plugs!
Mist your horse. If you have access to a misting machine, use it frequently. This is far more effective than dousing them with the hose.
Provide fresh water with electrolytes. Electrolytes can help keep your horse hydrated when it’s sweating a lot, although Janet warns that too many electrolytes can be harmful, so it is important to offer fresh water as well! Keep in mind that a bucket of water in the sun can get warm quickly and won’t appeal to your horse. Provide fresh, cool water sources to avoid stagnant and unhealthy water.
Slow down the work. If you have to work your horse in the middle of the peak heat, lighten the workload or do it in short sessions. Provide plenty of cool water during, and sponge them down with cool water, when the work is finished, and they have been cooled down slowly.
Stick to your schedule. Too much change all at once can cause colic, so it’s a good idea to try to stick to your schedule as much as possible while keeping in mind these tips to keep your horse cool.
Avoid Sunburn. White horses, horses with white socks, pink noses, or scarring, are especially prone to getting sunburn. Janet recommends using sun creams like zinc oxide on sensitive areas, and to be aware that excessive sunburn could indicate a rare liver disease.
Clip long coats. Think, long coats will hold heat and make it harder for your horse to cool down. Don’t clip too short, as their coats will offer protection from sunburn. Find a happy medium and your horse will thank you.
Learn about your horse and signs of heatstroke. Heatstroke can happen to a horse anytime they can’t handle the heat. Whether that be standing in a hot stall, in a trailer, or working in hot conditions. Janet recommends learning about your horse - their normal temperature, heart, and respiratory rates.
“To find the heart rate of a horse, simply find a pulse and count the beats for 15 seconds, then multiply that number by 4, which will give the beats per minute. Count the breaths per minute in a similar way.” She also goes on to provide these signs of heatstroke:
Signs of heat stroke can include:
- An elevated heart rate that does not return to normal
- Excessive sweating OR lack of sweating
- A temperature that persists above 103 degrees F
- Depression, lethargy
- Signs of dehydration: dry mucous membranes, poor capillary refill, and poor skin turgor
Hopefully, these tips will be of some help in keeping your horse cool, but remember to always call your vet if you think your horse is having a heat stroke.
Were these tips helpful? Share with your friends so they can look after their horses, too!