By Ashley Schenck and Martha Josey
As the summer months get closer, so does the heat. Whether it is hot and dry or hot and humid, the extremely warm weather can be very hard on our equine athletes. There are many things we can do to help our horses stay cool and comfortable in this weather, both at home and on the road.
As the temperatures rise, you may find yourself changing your horse’s daily routine. There are many factors to consider when thinking of your horse’s care for the summer months, especially if you live in a state with extremely warm afternoons. One of the most important things to think about is your horse’s turn out schedule. If you stall your horse during the day and turn your horse out at night, you can help protect your horse from the sun.
Regardless, we always like to keep fans on our horses when they are in the stalls. This gives them consistent air flow and provides a slight break from the heat. It will also help prevent stocking up in you horses’ legs, especially older horses. Your horse may thoroughly enjoy having a fan, but be sure that the type of fan you choose is safe to use in your barn and the cords are out of your horse’s reach and off the ground.
When you plan your riding schedule for your horses, keep in mind that it may be better to ride your older seasoned horses early or late in the day when it’s cool and ride your younger horses during the warmer hours. If your horse has a heavy mane, braiding or plaiting it up can make them cooler during workout.
Be cautious of overheating, and be sure to hose your horses down after their workouts. Make sure you hose down their legs and under their stomachs and tails to give them relief from the heat everywhere. After you wash your horse down, use a sweat scraper to wick away the excess water on your horse to help cool them down efficiently. If a horse is left with excess water on its coat, it can actually make them hotter rather than helping cool them down by trapping heat against the skin.
Keep Your Horse Hydrated
Horses should always have fresh, clean water in front of them. If using buckets for water, a horse needs at least two full buckets in its stall. Clean them often to encourage drinking. If you are traveling, keep a bucket at your trailer and always allow your horses to drink when they are thirsty.
When traveling, it’s important to keep a very close eye on your horse and monitor how much he is drinking. If you are not sure how much your horse has had to drink, try wetting the hay you are feeding or squirt a syringe of water into a horse’s mouth at stops. If your horse has a hard time adapting to new water, take some water from home for shorter trips. There are also filters such as Horse Hydrator to help those horses that may not always drink well. It is important that you find ways to keep water in your horse. Any sport you watch on TV, you see the trainers keeping water in front of their athletes constantly to keep them healthy and winning.
Electrolyte paste is essential to keep on hand—we love Electro-Cell by MVP. You can provide your horse with a tube prior to hauling and after strenuous activities to encourage drinking. If possible, plan your travel time for the cooler parts of the day.
Sometimes, no matter how prepared you are, problems can arise such as dehydration or tying up. Be sure to have a good relationship with your vet and discuss with them various methods of hot weather horse care as well as how to check for dehydration, such as the skin-pinch test or capillary refill time. Ask your vet how to recognize the symptoms of a horse tying up and what you can do if this occurs. It’s best to be prepared just in case.
Go the extra mile for your horse and always plan ahead. Little things like sponge baths and extra stops on trips can make a difference. We ask our equine partners to do a great deal for us. This even goes for arrival time. If there is one tree at the rodeo that could provide shade for your horse to stand in, get there early enough to have that parking spot. Always be sure to consider how the weather and temperatures can take a toll on your horses. Thinking of ways to make it easier for them might just make a difference for you at your next show.