Keeping Your Horse Happy and Healthy in the Hot Weather!
Summertime is fast approaching and before we know it the hot weather will be here to stay! We have the ability to keep ourselves cool, air conditioning is a wonderful invention, but what can our horses do to keep themselves safe from the heat? Here are some simple tips for helping your horse enjoy the summer months!
Change in Feed/Water needs
During the increased heat of summer your horse may benefit from a change in their regular feed. Feed such as alfalfa, oats, and corn can produce more heat and allow less hydration for your horse. Cutting back on these and letting your horse have more access to hay and pasture grazing will allow them more of an opportunity to munch on that yummy fresh grass, full of water, that they love so much! Horses bodies tend to be made up of about 60% water, which means during the hot weather when they are losing much more of their body’s water they will need an additional 10-15 gallons of H2O to keep themselves healthy. Adding an extra water bucket, wetting down their hay and giving your horse a quick hose down can make all the difference to your horse’s health and happiness!
Horse’s sweat a lot during the summer to keep themselves cool but in doing so they are not just losing water but are also losing important minerals and electrolytes that their body needs to stay healthy. Adding a salt lick or electrolytes to their regular diet will help replace what is lost and encourage even more water consumption.
Keeping it cool
Giving your horse access to a shaded area is a must during the overwhelming heat of summer afternoons. Did you know that horses can get sunburns just like you? White or light colored horses, or horses with light colored socks, blazes and noses are more likely to feel the burn from the summer sun and may require sunscreen to keep their skin protected. Adding a misting or cooling system, even just a fan, to your horse’s shaded area will encourage them to stay out of the sun and keep them one happy camper!
Bugs and bedding
Summer means heat but it also means flies! A fly mask will quickly become your horse’s new best friend and will help them keep those annoying pests away from their eyes and face. It’s important to keep their stalls and water buckets clean and clear of any debris that will attract flying insects. Also, adding soft, deep wood shavings in your shaded area will give your horse a cooling place to rest and relax with the option to lay down comfortably that will keep your horse happy and calm during the soon to arrive heatwaves that’ll be sure to knock us all off our feet.
Don’t let the heat make your horse lazy! They need just as much exercise as any other time of the year and an overweight horse will produce more heat and only increase their chances of health problems later in life. Exercise your horse in the morning and early evening and avoid added activity during the hottest points of the day. Additionally, when enjoying a summertime ride prepare your horse with less tack than normal. They do not need the added weight, or even a blanket, when the weather is reaching towards the 100-degree mark and they will be much happier with light or cooling leg wraps. You wouldn’t want a sweater or fuzzy socks when it is hot outside, why would your horse? Avoid overworking your horse and stay tuned to their changing needs to keep everyone happy this summer season.
Signs of Heat Stress
Sometimes even when you do everything you can to prevent it heat stress can still happen! Possible symptoms to look out for are:
-Profuse sweating over the entire body or a lack of sweat all together
-Behavior changes such as lethargy, loss of appetite or decreased motor skills
-Elevated temperature (anything over 105 degrees can mean your horse is at risk)
-Shallow breathing/ panting
Immediate treatments include removing all tack from your horse and dousing them in as much cool water as possible. Take them to a shaded or cool area with plenty of access to water so that your horse will be able to quickly cool themselves down. If your horse does not improve it may be time to call your local veterinarian!
Keeping your horse calm, cool, and cared for will help everyone enjoy a fun and active summer, where everyone can be happy and healthy!
Author, Heather Carter