TIPS ON KEEPING YOUR HORSE COOL IN THE HEAT
The Summer heat can be dangerous for horses, resulting in dehydration, lethargy, and general malaise even in the UK where we have had some very hot days.
Severe heat stress can even cause diarrhoea and colic among other things.
These are a few tips based on one of the partners here at Equus Property on keeping your horse cooler in the heat; but by no means are they the only ways and these are based on some years of experience owning horses in the UK and not in hotter countries and or climates where specialist advice may be needed.
If you are in any doubt on how to keep you horse cool or are concerned about your horse or have no experience, CONATCT YOU EQUINE VET IMMEDIATELY.
1. Choose cooler turnout times. If your horse has a stable, but is turned out for part of the day, provide turnout during the cooler hours. Overnight is ideal, but if that’s not possible, have the horse go outside as early as possible during the day. Remember, the summer heat can also take a toll on the quality of your pasture. You might need to provide additional feed as the grass becomes sparse to maintain proper body condition and energy.
2. Provide shade. If your horse lives outdoors or if he must be outside during the day, provide relief from the sun. A field shelter is best. Trees are a source of shade, but as the sun moves, so will the shade; ensure that regardless of the time of day the trees are offering shade.
3. Move the air. Fans are a good way to help keep the air moving in a barn, but use them wisely. Always ensure that your horse can't get a hold of cords and plugs. Otherwise keep stable doors open as with windows but ensure the chains are across the stable and in good working order and security is still secure/good on other perimeters if they fail in the first instance.
4. Mist/spray your horse. If you are fortunate enough to have a misting system for your horse, use it. As moisture is absorbed from your horse’s skin, it will take away some of the heat. Frequent mistings are far more effective than a single dousing with a hose. If not, spray using a hose and nozzle on spray and do it throughout the heat of the day on a regular basis.
5. Provide fresh, cool water. Make sure your horse has plenty of fresh, cool water. A bucket hanging on a fence or on the ground will get warm and the water will no longer be appealing. Left long enough, the water will also become stagnant and unhealthy. Check hourly to see whether it needs replenishing or if the horse is NOT drinking (which may be a sign of the horse in distress so seek Veterinary medical advice immediately).
6. Slow down the work. Don’t think that because your horse has been working in warmer weather that it can take the heat when the temperature starts rising. If you have to work your horse in the heat, lighten the work or spread it out over a couple of short sessions. This is especially important when the humidity is high, contributing to the poor quality of the air your horse is breathing. Cool your horse down slowly, and offer frequent sips of cool water. Take the tack off as soon as you’re done and sponge the horse off again with cool water. Personally I just don’t work my horse when the humidity is high and the temperature is rising.
7. Avoid sunburn. Horses, especially white horses, can suffer from sunburn. Even those with white socks and blazes, pink noses, or hairless patches from scarring can be susceptible. Using a fly scrim/net can help. In addition, applying sunblock to small, particularly vulnerable areas can be effective. Staying out of the sun’s harmful rays will of course be best practice.
8. Clip horses with longer hair coats. Clipping is important, while some coat can provide protection from the sun and insulation, a long, thick coat tends to hold heat and makes it difficult for the horse to cool down. Be careful not to clip the hair too close, however, as it provides some protection from damaging rays.
9. Know your horse and signs of heat stroke. Heat stroke can happen anytime your horse is exposed to excessive heat that his body cannot handle. Heatstroke can happen if exercising in hot conditions, but be aware that it can also happen if standing in a hot loose box or trailer.
Signs of heat stroke can include:
- An elevated heart rate that does not return to normal in a reasonable period of time;
- Excessive sweating or lack of sweating;
- Temperature that persists;
- Depression and/or lethargy; and
- Signs of dehydration: dry mucous membranes, poor capillary refill, and poor skin turgor.
If you are concerned that your horse is suffering from heat stroke, or has sun burn, call your vet immediately and get your horse into a cooler environment.