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Looking After Your Horse In The Summer Heat

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

As an equestrian, are you looking forward to the summer months? We certainly are! More time to ride, better weather, competitions and socialising with other riders – what's not to like? However, when temperatures get too high, it can be tough on our horse friends.

As the summer heat intensifies, it's essential to be aware of the dangers it poses to our equine friends. Just like humans, horses can suffer from heat stroke, sunburn, and other health problems when exposed to extreme temperatures. Young horses, in particular, are especially susceptible to these conditions. However, any horse – regardless of age or health – can experience heatstroke under the right circumstances.

If you have a busy training schedule or are competing this summer, take a moment to read on for some tips on keeping your horse safe and healthy in the heat.


How To Prevent Heat Stress

If you want your horse to stay healthy during summer, you need to take steps to prevent heat stress. Heat stress can cause a range of symptoms, including increased respiratory rate, profuse sweating, elevated body temperature, lethargy, and mucous membranes that are discoloured. Every year, horses die from heatstroke because their owners are not aware of the dangers.

You can keep your horse healthy in summer by taking some simple precautions. Here is what you can do to prevent heatstrokes at your barn:


Hydration

On an ordinary day, horses need anywhere from 5 - 10 gllons of water. Their hydration needs can easily double or even triple on hot days. Try to observe how much water your horse drinks in the summer and keep their water clean from dust and bugs.

To encourage water intake, you can try these tips:


  • Have water breaks within your training if you are training for more than 30 minutes at a time.


  • Encourage the horse to drink more water by adding treats into the bucket or trough. You can throw some sliced apples, bananas, watermelon, strawberries, cucumber, etc into the water.


  • Add ice into the water, especially into troughs in an unshaded paddock.


  • Add water into the feed. You can soak the hay and grains in some water before feeding.


If the flies are not allowing you to keep the water clean, you can consider adding some apple cider vinegar to the water. 200ml of apple cider vinegar will keep the flies away.


Adjust your riding schedule

We know that you're working hard to achieve your goals and that summer is the best time for you to ride. But training can be stressful for horses, and when combined with hot weather, it can become unbearable. If you need to keep riding in the heat, try changing your schedule to ride during cooler hours like early morning or evening. You can also ride in a ventilated indoor arena instead of outside. If you have to ride outside, try to find a location with plenty of shade.


Change turnout times

Horses love to run and graze in the summertime, but hot weather can cause heat stress if they're not used to it. To avoid this, schedule turnouts for early morning, evening, or night when it's cooler outside. Make sure there is plenty of shade in the paddock area so the horses can stay cool and comfortable.


Use fans inside

As the sun reaches its highest point, make sure your horse is in the shade to stay cool. However, indoor spaces like stables and arenas can get stuffy without natural air circulation. When hot weather stagnates, it can be difficult for horses to breathe and cool down. Give them a break by installing two large fans in the barn aisle to circulate a cool breeze.


Mist & shower regularly

A cool shower is always refreshing, especially after a long day in the hot sun. For horses, sweating is a necessary way to regulate their body temperature. But after a hard workout or hot day, they can sweat a few gallons. The best way to clean the sweat and cool them off is with a cool shower. You can shower your horse with a hose, and scrape the water gently until he feels refreshed enough. Misting them with water regularly can help too.


Clip if needed

Horses sweat to cool off, so clipping their coat can help them stay comfortable in summer weather. Some horses shed their coat quickly and have a thin summer coat, while others might have a hard time shedding. This can lead to excessive sweating, and your horse will need more time to cool off. Instead of dealing with all that sweat, you can clip off the horse's coat just like you would in winter.


Avoid sunburn

As the weather gets warmer, we have to remember that our horses can get sunburnt too! The sun's ultraviolet rays can damage the horses sensitive skin, just like ours. So it's essential to take steps to protect them.


There are a few things you can do to prevent your horse from getting sunburnt. Firstly, you can apply sunscreen around their muzzle and use a fly mask on their face. If they are susceptible to sunlight, you might also want to use a light summer rug to cover their whole body. Just make sure the material is breathable.


Choose your tack wisely

As the days grow hotter, it is important to take extra care of your horse to prevent them from overheating. One way to do this is to use lighter, breathable saddle pads that allow airflow and prevent excessive sweating. Another is to protect their legs from the heat with open-front boots or wraps. By taking these precautions, you can help ensure your horse stays healthy and comfortable all summer long.

If you’d like any more information on caring for your horse, contact us, we will be happy to help! If you’ve found this information helpful, you can leave a donation to help out our lovely equestrian friends.

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