Horse Care Tips for the hot Summer Months

Summer is one of the best times to ride a horse yet the summertime heat has the potential to cause a number of serious problems for your horse.  Summer heat can cause dehydration, malaise, lethargy and worse.  If heat stress is severe, it can lead to diarrhea and colic. Let’s take a look at the top tips to keep horses cool, healthy and happy as we transition to the summer.

Provide Your Horse With Shade

Horses, just like human beings, require shade when the temperatures rise.  Get your horse out of the sun and the animal will have a chance at remaining cool.  Though your horse will be subjected the to sun during daytime training and riding, you should be mindful of how much sun the animal is exposed to.  Ideally, you will have a run-in shed.  Take a break from training and rides to guide your horse to nearby trees that provide cool shade.

Select Cooler Turnout Times

The average horse has a stall yet it is turned out for a portion of the day.  Turnout should be provided during cool periods as opposed to the blazing hot afternoon.  The ideal turnout time is overnight.  However, if this is not possible, the horse will have to be taken outdoors early in the morning.  There is also the chance that summer heat will reduce the quality of the pasture.  Do not hesitate to add more feed as your horse has less and less grass to consume.  Otherwise, the animal will struggle to maintain the optimal energy level and body condition.

Mist the Horse

If you do not have a misting system, now is the time to consider buying one.  As the horse’s skin absorbs moisture, it will take away part of the heat.  Regular mistings are much more effective than one-and-done spray-downs with a hose.

Air Circulation is Important

Run several large fans throughout the barn to ensure proper air flow.  Just be sure to position the fans far away from the horse as the animal might trip over cords, gnaw at plugs and so on.

Do not let Your Horse Become Sunburnt

Most people are unaware of the fact that horses have the potential to be burned by the sun.  Horses with white and other light-colored hair are most likely to be sunburnt.  Sadly, horses with just a little bit of white such as a blaze or white socks are also highly susceptible to sunburn.  The use of a fly scrim will certainly help.  The application of sunblock to highly vulnerable areas will also prove effective.  You can also add a fly sheet to white horses to guard against the sun.  Do your best to keep your horse out of the sun in the afternoon hours when the sun is at its peak.

Horses Need Water and Electrolytes

Every horse needs and deserves fresh cold water along with a source of electrolytes.  It is not enough to simply hang a bucket on a pasture fence.  Such buckets get extraordinarily hot under the summer sun.  Warm water is just as unappealing to horses as it is to human beings.  Furthermore, stagnant water will become unhealthy.

It is possible to provide a horse with fresh, cool and clean water only to have the animal turn away.  If the horse refuses to drink fresh water, add a salt block.  It might also help to mist the hay with salt water.  However, if the horse is sweating in excess, provide the animal with water containing electrolytes.  These electrolytes will help keep the animal’s body remain in balance.  Provide your horse with another source of fresh water in addition to the electrolyte-laden water just in case the animal is uninterested in water with electrolytes.  Give your horse the option of both types of water and the animal is certain to drink one for proper hydration.

Give Your Horse a Summertime Haircut

Clipping long horse hair is of the utmost importance, especially for horses saddled by Cushing’s disease, also known as pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction or PPID for short.  Though some hair is necessary to guard against the sun’s wrath and insulate the animal, a lengthy thick coat of hair will hold the heat and make it challenging to maintain the optimal body temperature.  Do not make the mistake of clipping the horse’s hair too short out of a fear of the blazing hot summer sun.  The horse needs a layer of fairly long hair to protect against the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays.

Reduce the Work Pace

If your horse has worked hard throughout the day, do not assume the animal can maintain the pace when the summer months arrive.  If it is absolutely necessary to work your horse when it is hot outside, lighten the animal’s workload or at least spread it out across several abbreviated sessions.  Slowing down the work is particularly important when the humidity level is elevated.  Humid air is that much more difficult for horses to breathe and process.

Cool down your horse in a gradual manner after working the animal in the sun.  Provide the animal with water at a high frequency and remove the tack as soon as the work is over.  Apply a water-logged sponge across the horse to cool the animal down as quickly as possible.

Understand Your Horse and Recognize the Signs of Heat Stroke

Heat stroke can occur when horses are subjected to excessive heat.  If the animal’s body cannot handle the heat, heatstroke is likely when exercising under the hot sun.  However, horses can also endure heat stroke when standing in a hot trailer or stall.   Pay attention to your horse to get a sense of the animal’s temperature, respiratory rate and heart rate.  In order to find your horse’s heart rate, pinpoint the animal’s pulse.  You can determine the heart’s beats per minute by counting the beats across 15 seconds and multiplying this number by four.  The tabulation of breaths per minute is determined in a similar manner.

Every horse owner should be aware of the common signs of heat stroke.  If your horse sweats excessively, is not sweating at all, has an elevated heart rate for an extended period of time or seems lethargic or depressed, there is a good chance the animal is suffering from heat stroke.  The horse might also exhibit the following signs of dehydration: insufficient capillary refill, overly-dry mucous membranes an an altered skin turgor.  If you are even slightly suspicious your horse has heat stroke, move the animal to a cool space and contact the veterinarian right away.

Adhere to a Schedule

Though the sun will be out in full force, you should still try to maintain the normal schedule during the summer months.  Do your part to keep your horse cool, gradually incorporate schedule changes and you will have done your part to prevent colic, sunburn, heat stroke and other health problems.

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