Summer is a favorite time for riding among most horse enthusiasts, but the effect that heat and humidity can have on your equine friend must be considered. Heat exhaustion can result in gastrointestinal difficulties, lethargy, stress, and dehydration. To prevent this from happening, use the following tips that will allow you to keep your horse cool and content throughout summer’s dog days:
1. Know the Signs of Heat Stroke
Heat stroke is a condition that can sicken your horse which is caused by exposure to excessive heat. When your horse is exposed to a surplus of heat or humidity that he or she is unable to handle, whether it is from being boarded in an overheated stall or trailer, or from an overabundance of exercise, he or she may start to exhibit troublesome symptoms. These symptoms can include, but are not limited to, elevated heart rates that do not return to baseline immediately, lethargy, depression, sweating too much or not enough, or a temperature exceeding 103 that does not return to normal within a reasonable period of time. You should also be on the lookout for signs of dehydration, such as poor capillary refill, dry mucous membranes, and skin turgor. Remember, if you are ever concerned that your horse may be suffering from heat stroke, it is important to have a veterinarian take a look at him or her right away.
The best way to know for sure if your horse is suffering from heat stroke is to know his or her baseline vital signs by heart. Take down your horse’s heart rate, temperature, and respiratory rates when he or she is in a rested, calm state, but not when he or she is sleeping, because that reading can be deceptive.
To find his or her base heart rate, simply locate the pulse and count the beats for 15 seconds, then multiply the number by four, giving you the accurate amount of beats in a given minute. You can use a similar method to ascertain the amount of breaths that he or she makes in 60 seconds.
2. Always Provide Adequate Shade
Anytime that your horse is outside for the majority of the day, it is crucial that he or she is provided with adequate relief from direct sunlight. Remember that while large, full trees provide a fair amount of shade, they may not be able to shade an entire pasture, and the sun does move across the sky throughout the day. If you have one available, a run-in shed is probably the best way for your horse to get plenty of exercise during the most oppressive months.
3. Let your Horse out when it’s Cooler
If you let your horse out during daylight hours, but he or she has a stall, it probably best to let him or her out during hours when it is much cooler outside. The very best time to do this is overnight, but if there are reasons why this may not be possible, you should at least aim for the early morning hours when the sun is still low in the sky
4. Keep on your Regular Schedule
While you may try to rearrange your horse’s schedule to ensure that he or she is exercising or working at the coolest times of day, it is best for the rest of your animal’s day to stay as close as possible to his or her normal schedule. Completely changing your horse’s schedule can result in diarrhea, colic, and other gastrointestinal issues. Therefore, try your best to keep other elements of his or her day close to the status quo to ensure your horse’s good health.
5. Don’t Overwork your Horse
While your horse may be used to working long hours, and may even thrive from the hours of healthy exercise he or she gets, you need to remember that it is in your horse’s best interest to not work as intensely outside when the temperature pushes past 90 degrees. This is especially true if it is particularly humid. The poor air quality can lead to severe difficulty with breathing for your animal, and possible fainting spells.
If your horse must work in the heat, try to lighten his or her load or break the work down into smaller time chunks that he or she manage more easily.
6. Prevent Painful Sunburn
Please note that if your horse has suffered from excessive sunburns, it could be a symptom of a rare equine liver disease, but usually, mild sunburns are experienced by most horses that are out in the sunshine unprotected.
And while all horses are susceptible to getting sunburns, the danger posed to white horses with little natural protection makes them twice as vulnerable. This means that if your horse has white “socks,” blazes, or any hairless patches including pink noses, you must apply either sunblock or fly scrim to those areas to ensure protection.
7. Circulate the Air
While your horse is quartered in his or her stable, be sure that you have large fans installed to keep the air in motion around the barn. While ceiling fans would be ideal, powerful box fans will also work well as long you keep all plugs and cords out your horse’s reach.
8. Keep Fresh Water Available
Always provide your horse with plenty of ice cold water to drink from to refresh his or her self. Your horse needs to take frequent and slow sips while exercising or working especially, but he or she should also drink frequently on hot days even when he or she is mostly resting. If your horse is not much of a drinker, try providing him or her with a salt lick or misting his or her hay with salt water to encourage your animal to imbibe.
One thing that you should not do is hang buckets of water from pastoral fences. They can get warm in direct sunlight and this can cause your horse to ignore them. Eventually, the water will get stagnant and teem with numerous germs. It is best to keep cool water in an area that is obstructed from the sun.
9. Clip Longer Haired Breeds
If your horse unfortunately suffers from PPID, or pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction, or the dreaded Cushing’s disease, then you already know how important clipping is in general. However, clipping longer-haired horses’ coats, not unlike other mammals, can keep them cooler during the warmer months.
Just remember that it is crucial that you do not clip too close to his or her skin because longer hair evolved as a method of shielding your horse from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Some coats are simply insulators and protectors, but others just make living out in the heat miserable for your horse. You will have to learn what hair can be clipped properly and which hair you should simply leave alone.
10. Sponge and Mist down your Horse
Once your horse has completed any work or exercise routine, retreat him or her to the stable and remove all tack immediately. You should then sponge down your animal with cool, not cold, water, and proceed slowly and in small strokes.
If you have a misting system installed, this is an even better solution. The gentle mist is delicate and much more effective in cooling your horse down than spraying him or her with a hose. The moisture is gradually absorbed by his or her skin and this removes any excess heat with ease.
In conclusion, following these tips should help you to keep your horse well-hydrated, healthy, and energetic, regardless of how warm it gets this summer season.
To wrap things up, here’s a cute comic I found!