Summer is undoubtedly here. For most of us here in the States, we’re already cranking up the A/C and staying indoors. Unless your horses are in an air conditioned barn then they’re likely outside battling the heat.
Heat stress and heat stroke are very real dangers. Both of these ailments can happen more quickly than one would expect as well. Young horses, senior horses, those who are ill as well as horses with dark colored coats or are overweight will succumb more quickly than a light-colored, healthy adult.
Check out these 10 tricks for keeping your equines cooler on those hot days.
1. First and foremost be sure there is fresh water available 24/7. Your horses should have access to at least 20 gallons of water per horse at all times. Check water throughout the day and if the water gets warm, dump it and refill. If you’re struggling with keeping the water cool, throw in a few trays of ice cubes.
2. Make sure there is access to shade in your horse’s pasture. Your horse should be able to get out of the sun whenever he chooses to. This shelter can be in the form of a run-in, a simple shed or a group of trees. Shady, heavily leafed trees will be far cooler than a run-in shed out in direct sunlight.
3. If you’re an active rider, try to get riding/exercising done early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Make sure you’ll have enough time to cool off your horse before the day starts getting too hot.
4. For those really hot days or after active exercise, hose your horse off. Focus the water on the legs, neck and under the jaw especially. *Always* let the hose run for a while before spraying your horse. A hose laying out in the sun will have super hot water so test the temp beforehand.
5. Keep tabs on how much salt your horse is eating. It is so important that your horses are consuming a healthy level of salt. The average adult horse living in a very hot climate should have at least 4oz of salt a day. Every week you can weigh the salt block to be sure enough is being eaten.
6. Provide electrolytes to active horses or those who are prone to heat stress. Electrolytes contain salts, minerals and other ingredients that rehydrate horses. Think of them like an equine version of Gatorade.
7. If your horse’s barn or shelter is stuffy, set up box fans to get the air moving. Cheap $20 box fans from Walmart can be a great way to get air flowing in a barn or shed. Make sure the cords are up out of reach of curious equine mouths.
8. Give your horse high-water treats. Lettuce, watermelon, chilled apples, celery, etc are all good treats for horses. Keeping horses hydrated is of the utmost importance.
9. For those owners of horses with light colored faces, use equine-safe products to prevent sunburn. As humans we know how awful a sunburn can be. Horses with light areas around the eyes and nose are equally susceptible. Use a horse-safe sunscreen and consider a UV fly mask.
10. In hot weather flies can become more of an annoyance than usual so implement a fly-control regiment. Use fly masks, lightweight fly sheets or whatever other horse “clothing” works for you. Apply fly spray regularly and set up traps.
If your horse is acting lethargic, depressed and not sweating, he might be developing early symptoms of heat stroke. Move your horse to a cool area and hose him off. Offer water, preferably with electrolytes in it. Take your horses temperature (you do have a thermometer in your first-aid kit, right?) and check his pulse. A heart rate above 80 beats per minute is a sign of heat stress. His temperature above 103F can be dangerous. Shallow breathing, less than 50 breaths per minute, is also a sign of heat stress.
Horses showing signs of heat stress should be treated immediately, just as if you noticed signs of colic. If you suspect heat stress or heat stroke, call your vet ASAP.
How do you guys deal with hot summer weather and keep your horses comfortable? Feel free to comment below!
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