I don’t know about you but the last few weeks in the Washington D.C. area have been a crazy mix of hot and humid summer weather. Although I am trying to only exercise my horses during the cooler morning or evening hours, they (as well as myself) are sometimes already sweating just from walking all the way from the field back to the barn. Also, sometimes you just can’t escape the heat – if you get one of those midday riding times at a horse show for example. That’s why you need to know these tips on how to keep your horse cool this summer.
How To Keep Your Horse Cool
I’ve been doing a bit of research and found some great tips and helpful information in an article by Drs. Foster and Smith (WI) which I will summarise below:
- First and foremost, all horses should have access to shade and water regardless if they are living inside a barn or out in the field. An average sized horse drinks up to 25 gallons of water if temperatures reach above 70’F, so keep the water coming.
- Also, fans are a great way to cool your horse down, the air draft also helps with annoying flies. If your barn doesn’t have installed fans, no problem, opening the barn doors and windows during the cooler morning and evening hours also helps with a nice breeze.
- Bath after bath after bath, people. During this hot summer time, I hose down my horses before and after riding to keep them as comfortable and refreshed as possible. I slowly start with the hind legs, followed by the front legs before I continue to the shoulders, belly and back so they can adjust to the cold temperature of the water (my mare gets really annoyed with me if I don’t do that slowly enough). Running cold water down their large blood vessels (read: under the belly, along the neck and inside the legs) really helps horses to cool down.
- During excessive sweating, horses (just like people), lose a lot of salt. Feeding electrolyte supplements will help your horse to replenish this salt loss.
- Last but not least, if your horse has one of those adorable pink noses please don’t ditch the sunscreen. Apply zinc oxide sunscreen to prevent uncomfortable sunburn.
Can Horses Get Heatstroke?
To be completely honest, although I have been around horses most of my life, I didn’t know that they actually can get a heatstroke (in my defense: I grew up in Germany where temperatures during summer time are lot cooler compared to the US). Heatstroke can occur if horses are not able to cool their body temperature down like they normally do, due to extreme heat. It is a quite dangerous condition which can in severe cases lead to seizures, collapse of a horse and worse.
Here are some warning signs to detect a heatstroke
- Lethargic, depressive behaviour like disinterest in food, stumbling
- Elevated temperature (->if the rectal temperature is 103’F or higher)
- Heavy breathing (->between 40-50 breaths per minute)
- Increased or absence of sweating (->excessive full-body sweating or even worse: complete absence of sweating)
If you think your horse could be suffering from a heatstroke, immediately take measures to cool him down and contact your veterinarian if symptoms persist or his condition worsens. I hope these tips on how to keep your horse cool this summer help your four-legged friends to beat the heat and enjoy this summer.
Horsemad.com should only be used for informational purposes. If you have any questions regarding animal health, please direct them to your veterinarian.