37 Ways to Help Your Horse Beat the Heat

 

Ah, the dog days of summer. Lots of sunlight, school’s out, and everything is HOT and HUMID. This weather can sometimes create problems for horses (and people), and there are many things you can do. You are probably doing some of these ways to help your horse beat the heat already!


Table of Contents
Food and Water
Skin and Coat
Turnout
In the Barn
Exercise
How to monitor their health
Signs of heat stroke in horses
What to do about heat stroke 
The FEI report on horses in extreme temperatures
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two horses mutually grooming in a big shed

These two love birds are enjoying some shade on a hot day.


Food and water

 

  • You can change your horse’s diet to help them stay cool in hot temperatures while boosting their hydration.

Water

 

  • Add more watering stations. More water locations mean herd horses are less likely to be pushed out.

 

  • Move existing watering stations into the shade.

 

  • Change your horse’s water more frequently – mosquito larvae may be growing.

 

  • Track how much water your horse drinks as best you can. Some automatic waterers have accessories to measure consumption; you must re-set the gauge daily.

 

  • Offer your horse flavored water to encourage drinking. Add electrolytes, a small amount of feed, or a flavored sports drink to some water. Always make this an option in addition to unflavored, in case your horse doesn’t appreciate your bartending skills.


Vitamins, minerals, and salts

 

  • Add electrolytes to your horse’s feed instead of offering blocks. Mineral blocks are unbalanced for horses, and the texture suits a cow’s tongue. Horses won’t ingest their daily recommended quantities.

 

  • Feed electrolytes before your horse sweats. This could be first thing in the morning or later in the day before a ride.

 

  • Complete feeds and ration balancers will cover a horse’s vitamin and mineral needs; you can add electrolytes.

 

  • Talk to your vet about your horse’s salt needs – you may need to add more or skip the salt if you feed electrolytes.  A horse needs 1 tablespoon per 500 lbs of salt a day. 

 

wet beet pulp in a bucket

Good soup. 


Feeds and hay

 

  • Add water to your horse’s grains, pellets, and bagged feeds.

 

  • Consider rinsing or soaking your horse’s hay. But – fresh hay in water can quickly turn into rancid fodder in a steam bath, even after draining the water. It may be best to stick to rinsed hay.

 

  • Provide more fresh water buckets away from hay-filled buckets if your horse is a dunker.

 

Skin and coat health in summer

 

  • Clip your horse if they have anhidrosis, partial anhidrosis, or have an extra thick coat from genetics or PPID (formerly Cushing’s).

 

  • Protect your horse’s body from insects with fly gear in light colors.

 

  • Add sunblock to pink noses, and cover white hair with fly boots and sheets. Sometimes the sun can bust through white hair and blister the pink skin underneath.

 

horse wearing a fly sheet that's falling off

Fly gear is better when it fits! 


Turnout

 

  • Provide shade for your horse. Shade could be a shed, trees, netting, or anything else that gives your horse some cover.
    Switch to night turnout. Your horse won’t miss the heat or bugs.

 

  • Give your horse a place to roll; they love a dust or mud bath to block some sun.

 

  • Move slow feeders and waterers to shady areas.

 

  • Turn on a sprinkler for them. They can shower if they want to.


In the barn

 

  • Boost your barn’s ventilation by opening all the doors and windows on all levels. Open up any hay lofts for even more ventilation.

 

  • Add fans, but ensure they have an automatic shut-off safety mechanism.

 

  • Larger, industrial fans by the washrack help cool your horse after a rinse.

 

fan-in-horse-stall

 

Exercising your horse in hot weather

 

  • Extend your warm-up and cool-down times. You may even find that you don’t need to do much more than walk.
    Try riding bareback and forgo the heat of tack.

 

  • Use light-colored saddle pads and fly bonnets.

 

  • Take advantage of hacking in the woods or under shade if possible.

 

  • Time your rides to avoid the mid-day heat. Mornings are usually the coolest but may also be the most humid.
    Skip riding and lunge or hand walk instead.

 

  • Spritz your horse with an alcohol and water mixture to boost evaporative cooling.

 

  • Take your horse for a stroll in a creek or a swim in a safe pond.

 

  • Offer fresh water during your ride and immediately after your ride. It’s safe and can help prevent overheating and dehydration.

 

  • Help your horse cool down with a shower and a cooling blanket.

 

Sweaty-horse-foam

Foamy horse sweat only means one thing – latherin in the sweat had friction applied, making foam.  It’s NOT an indication of a horse overworking.  

 

 

Monitor your horse’s health

 

  • The most important thing you can do for your horse in the heat is check their vitals. Temperature, pulse, and respirations alert you to danger long before your horse’s body language will.

 

  • Take your horse’s temperature and vital signs before you ride. Without taking vitals, you will have zero clue about your horse’s health in the heat before you ride.

 

  • Retake them after you ride and every five minutes until vitals return to resting rates. This transition should take less than 30 minutes.

 

  • Check your horse’s gums for a normal pale pink color and slippery feeling. Sticky or dry gums are a sign of dehydration.
    Notice your horse’s sweating. Horses stop sweating when their body temperature has normalized or overheated.


Signs of overheating and heat stroke in horses

 

  • Horses can develop dangerously high body temperatures, sometimes over 104º. Know these signs of heat stress and stroke, and then call your vet immediately.

 

      • Excessive sweating
      • Your horse suddenly stops sweating
      • Faster respiratory and heart rates
      • Elevated body temperature. Use a thermometer, not your hand on their chest, as this is a subjective measurement, and you could be wrong.
      • Strange behavior
      • Wobbly legs
      • Lethargy
      • Dehydration – check gums!
      • Lack of hunger and thirst
      • Collapse
      • Seizures

 

horse thermometer with attached string

It’s so easy to take your horse’s temperature!

 

What to do if your horse is heading toward heat stroke

 

  • Call your vet. Do not do any treatments until you have talked to your vet – some “logical” treatments can worsen things

 

  • Start logging vital signs and times as you wait for the vet and follow their instructions.

 

  • Your vet must reduce their body temperature – sometimes with fluids, cold water hosing, and re-balancing electrolytes.

**Automatically giving electrolytes may worsen the situation by adding more fluctuations to already dire circumstances.**

 

horse-bath-wash-rack

Cool water is best, keep it coming, no need to scrape! 

 

The FEI report

 

  • Many moons ago, some vets came together for a sweltering summer Olympics in Atlanta to determine the best ways to cool out horses in excessive heat. The report is long and specific and often contradicts the typical “ice the major vessels” and “sweat scrape your horse” to reduce their temperature.

 

  • Some major takeaways are that using cold water with a continuous flow over their body is better than sweat-scraping, icing, and cold towels.

 

  • More recently, a preliminary study showed that sweat-scraped horses cool less effectively than those left wet and drippy.

 

  • Because there is confusion and conflicting information, your vet needs to know your horse’s exact temperature and hydration to best help your horse.

 

 

 

For more on determining when it’s too hot to ride, this can help you figure it out!

 

 

 

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07/08/2024 06:07 pm GMT
07/24/2024 01:18 pm GMT

 

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