I don't know about you but here in northeast Washington we're experiencing some unusually hot weather this month. Wherever you happen to live, summertime seems to be bittersweet. It makes for perfect riding weather on the cooler days but as the temperature climbs it can be nearly unbearable.
While people can go inside an air conditioned home, our horses are left outside to battle the heat. Check out the following tips on keeping your equines more comfortable this season.
Tip #1: Provide Shade Or Ventilation
If you have access to a well-ventilated barn that is cooler than the outside temp, this obviously is the best option. However, if you don't a barn or it happens to be hotter inside, allow your horse to stay out on pasture. Make sure there is plenty of shade for your horse if you plan on turning them out. You might find that some horses would actually rather stand out under a tree than in a cool barn.
Tip #2: Always Offer Fresh Water
Cool water can be difficult to accomplish in hot weather. Rather than using a huge horse trough, use a smaller one or buckets instead. As the water gets warm, dump it and refill with new water. If you have an automatic waterer make sure everything is in working order. A benefit of buckets over an automatic system is that you can visually see how much your horse is drinking. You'll be able to combat any dehydration before it becomes a serious problem. If you suspect dehydration you may want to add electrolytes to the water.
Tip #3: Pay Special Attention To Diet
Your horse's diet doesn't need to change much during hot weather but you should try and avoid sweet feeds. Sugary or "hot" foods will make your horse's body hot from the excess energy, not to mention it can cause fly problems to become worse. Large amounts of hay can increase your horse's body heat as well. Wet feeds can work well and help keep your horse hydrated. Aside from diet, make sure your horse has access to the proper salt block. Stay away from red mineral blocks or anything that is formulated for other livestock. You can provide electrolytes through feed as well.
Tip #4: Protect From Sun Exposure
Besides the heat, the sun's rays can be harmful to our horses. You may already be aware that horses with white faces or those with white around eyes and noses can be easily sunburnt. Not only is this problematic in itself but it can even cause cancer. The best way to prevent this is to keep your horse in complete shade during the day with the strongest UV rays. Special fly masks and sheet also help fight against UV rays.
Tip #5: Give Cool Water Baths
A great way to cool off your horse is by hosing his off throughout the day. Use cool, not completely old water and be sure you don't shock your horse with the water temperature. If your hose has been out in the sun always run the hose away from the horse to get all the hot water out. Water sitting in a hose in the sun will easily get hot enough to burn you and your horse. After hosing your horse off use a sweat scraper to get the excess water off. Your horse should be damp, not wet. This is especially important in humid weather as water in your horse's coat will only heat up.
Keeping your horse's cool in the summer can be difficult but it is certainly not impossible. Always use common sense when it comes to working your horse in hot weather. Exhaustion, heat stroke and dehydration are all very real possibilities.
How do you keep your horses comfortable in hot weather?
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