How to keep your horse cool this summer!
Summer can be great fun – longer days, a few holidays, warm temps, and no school! Summer can also be hot with a capital H. How can we keep our horses cool in the summer?
- We’ll do this in two parts – the first part we can talk about general cooling, and then in part two, we will talk about cooling during and after exercise.
- Sometimes, we can change the routine we have with our horses to accommodate the weather. This means that during the heat of the day, our buddies should be where there is shade available, a breeze, and plenty of clean water. Sometimes this is the barn, sometimes it is the turnouts. Your property will decide for you!
Clean water is KEY to keeping cool in the summer.
Speaking of water – summer is the time to really observe how much water your horse is drinking.
- This can be easier with buckets that you must refill. Consider adding another bucket and/or refilling more often. If you have automatic waterers, it’s darn near impossible to monitor water intake unless your automatic watering system has a monitor, which is easily installed. It’s more difficult to measure water intake if several horses use the same trough.
- You need to do regular checks for dehydration, like a pinch test and checking how slippery his gums are. Learn more about dehydration here in this article.
- Notice how much water he drinks and when. Horses are creatures of habit, and if you are usually filling 2/3 of a bucket at noon and one day you are only filling 1/3, this is a sign for you to intervene.
- You can also have your horse consume more water by adding it to his hay and rations. Soaking his hay is a great way to pump more water into your horse. One flake of hay can “hold” about 2 gallons of water. This is easy to do with a “hay” only wheelbarrow. Load with a few flakes of hay, add water, soak for a bit out of the sun, and tip the wheelbarrow to drain. You can find more tips on soaking hay here.
- Adding water to rations is another good way to hydrate, most horses like having their rations made into a “soup”. Depending on what type of grain you feed, you may need to add water to let the grain “expand”, then you can add even more. Every little bit of water counts!
- Don’t forget to add electrolytes to your horse’s routine to replace the minerals lost if your horse is sweating.
Be conscious of temperature, shade, and airflow at shows and at home. This show has handy tents for horses!
- Access to a breeze is a must in the hot weather. This can be natural, but there will be days where a breeze would feel like winning the lottery! In the barn, you can use fans.
- There is great debate out there about what types of fans to use – residential or commercial. Whatever fan you choose, you must make sure that there is a thermostatically controlled mechanism in the fan to switch it off if it starts to overheat. This feature is available on very expensive fans and also the cheap-o models that can run you about $50.
- Work with an electrician to make sure your barn’s wiring can handle the electrical load. While he is there, have the electrician put all of your wiring into metal conduits. This prevents birds, bugs, and rodents from eating wires.
- Use common sense and make sure there is shade at all times of the day when the heat is an issue. Shade can be from a shelter or trees or a shed. Be warned that even with adequate shade, your horse will likely drive you crazy by hanging out in the sun. Just as he likes to stand in the pouring rain after you have given him a super awesome dry fluffy bed.
- On super hot and muggy days, you may be tempted to give him a feel-good shower, even if he did not just exercise. That’s a great idea! Just be sure to use your sweat scraper – rinse, scrape, rinse, scrape, you get the idea. Allow him to dry in the shady breeze or in front of a fan for more effective cooling.
- There’s a lot of new evidence about sweat scraping – turns out, you do NOT need to sweat scrape. The water on your horse likely won’t cause him to overheat. BUT – it will make more dirt stick if he rolls.
- And, I don’t think I need to remind you to keep up with taking your horse’s temperature. More than once a day could be prudent, especially with weather temperature spikes and after exercise. And maybe before you tuck them in for the night.
So – there is your plan!! Enjoy the summer and stay cool.
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ADC Veterinary Thermometer, Dual Scale, Adtemp 422 – For easy temperature taking