Horses in the heat

Horses in the heat

These sunny days can come with extreme heat, along with worry for owners as they struggle to help their horses adjust, stay healthy, and remain comfortable. But with careful planning, our equine friends can stay cool and comfy in the midst of summer.

What are the most important things to consider?

First and foremost, an abundant supply of fresh drinking water. An average horse needs 5 to 7 gallons a day in cool weather but this can go up to 20 gallons or more in hot weather due to losses in sweat, and increased thirst. If you have more than one horse, a couple of tanks should be spaced apart so the dominant horse does not prevent the shyer ones from being able to drink.

Adding an electrolyte supplement to your horse’s diet could help keep him drinking and restore the electrolyte balances disrupted by sweating, and horses should have access to a salt block or receive a daily salt supplement (no more than a tablespoon per day) to allow them to meet their dietary sodium chloride requirements.

Next, those pesky insects!

Fly sheets, insect repellants for horses, and fans in your horse’s barn can all help to make him more comfortable, along with areas of shade when they are turned out. If it is particularly hot, your horse might love a hose down with cool water!

Heat Stress

Owners worry about this, but this condition mainly affects horses that are working or in athletic conditions. Light riding will not bring on heat stress but be cautious in extreme heat and humidity.

If you think your horse has heat stress, remove all his tack and equipment. You can take a rectal temperature. A temperature any higher than 103.5°F (about 39.8°C) indicate heat stress. In this case, move the horse out of direct sunlight and soak him in cool water, scraping away and reapplying until temperature drops. Do not do this too quickly as it can cause muscle cramps.

Loving advised, “Move the horse out of the direct sun when possible. Immediately soak the horse down with cool water, scraping it away and applying it continuously — this cooling process should stop once the chest feels cool to the touch and/or rectal temperature drops below 103.5°F.”

With some careful consideration and help from their owners, most horses should adjust to the warmer temperatures without much problem. If you have concerns about how your horse is handling the heat, your veterinarian will be able to help you pinpoint and resolve the problem.

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