How to keep your horse cool in the scorching summer

By Wendy Talbot on 06 July 2017

Summer can be a lovely time for horse-riding, but high temperatures carry health risks for your horse. Hot weather can lead to dehydration, lethargy, sunburn and stomach problems that may even include colic. What can you do to help avoid these hazards and keep your horse cool?

Offer water

Your horse should always have access to fresh water, but don’t be tempted to make it icy cold – 20°C is about right.

Don’t forget the salts

When horses sweat, they’re losing salts as well as water, and they need to replace both to restore the fluid balance in the body. A mineral salt block may be enough to allow your horse to replace lost salts. Adding electrolytes to the horse’s water can also help, but many commercial electrolytes contain more sugar than salt! Make sure you get one with salt (sodium chloride) listed as the first ingredient. Always offer plain, fresh water alongside the water containing the electrolyte product.

Protect your horse from the sun

Horses can burn in sensitive places such as the eye area, and this increases their skin cancer risk. Make sure your horse always has access to enough shade in the hotter part of the day. Also consider applying sunblock to unpigmented areas of skin.

Choose cooler times of day

In really hot weather got out in the cooler early mornings and evenings to exercise your horse.  If his stable is cool, why not keep him in during the day and turn him out at night? This will help keep your horse cool.

Keep an eye on feeding habits

The horse’s stomach secretes gastric acid continuously and their digestive health depends on getting plenty of fibrous food to mop it up.  Warm weather is a potential colic risk not only because it can cause horses to lose their appetite, but also because it may affect the quality of the pasture available for grazing – they may have eaten all the grass. Make sure there’s enough hay or grass available and keep an eye out for any signs that your horse is losing interest in food.

Know the signs of heatstroke

Signs of heatstroke include an elevated heart rate, a high temperature, lethargy and excessive sweating (or lack of sweating). An overheated horse may also keep breathing hard in an attempt to cool down. Get to know your horse well and you will soon be able to tell if things are not quite right or if he is getting distressed. Always ask for professional help if you are worried – better safe than sorry.

Keep your horse cool effectively

All horses will benefit from effective cooling, no matter the type of competition or the level at which they are performing. This includes event horses, dressage horses, show jumpers, racehorses, polo ponies, endurance horses, driving horses, show horses and gymkhana ponies.  Horses competing in temperatures of more than 26°C are less prone to heatstroke if they are cooled down quickly and effectively. The trick is to apply cold water, scrape it off and then re-apply while the horse is being walked around, which helps with respiratory rate recovery. It’s best to try and carry out the cooling and walking in the shade.

References

http://www.horseandhound.co.uk/features/8-ways-to-enjoy-the-sunshine-with-your-horse-480995

http://www.pets4homes.co.uk/pet-advice/hot-weather-tips-for-horse-owners.html

http://www.bhs.org.uk/our-charity/press-centre/news/july-to-dec-2013/hot-horses

http://www.horsehealthproducts.com/Horsemans_Report/Entry/overheated_horse

http://www.thehorse.com/articles/29338/10-hot-weather-horse-care-tips

http://www.horsehealthproducts.com/Horsemans_Report/Entry/overheated_horse

Summer can be a lovely time for horse-riding, but high temperatures carry health risks for your horse. Hot weather can lead to dehydration, lethargy, sunburn and stomach problems that may even include colic. What can you do to help avoid these hazards and keep your horse cool?

Offer water

Your horse should always have access to fresh water, but don’t be tempted to make it icy cold – 20°C is about right.

Comments

DR WENDY TALBOT BVSC CERT EM (INT MED) DECEIM MRCVS


Wendy graduated from Bristol University in 1999. She then went on to complete a residency at Liverpool University and holds a European Diploma in Equine Internal Medicine. After working in practice for 13 years, she joined Zoetis in 2012 as the National Equine Veterinary Manager.

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