Summer is undoubtedly one of the best times of year for equestrians. No school, long sunny days, and of course… Horse shows!! But with all the fun, brings some seriously hot weather! I don’t know about y’all, but I do not handle the summer heat too well… aka I’m currently nursing a horrendous sunburn even as I write this, #palegirlproblems. But as an equestrian, I push through the heat, humidity, and sweat by just taking a few extra precautions. And the same goes for our horses! High temperatures take their toll and can lead to dehydration, lethargy, colic, and even heat stroke! Read below for some tips and tricks on taking care of your horse on a hot day!
One of the most important horse care tips I can offer for the summer is to be diligent about keeping your horse hydrated! Many of the ailments listed above stem from dehydration. To assure your horse stays hydrated, make sure to provide clean, fresh water for them at all times. Electrolytes can also be added to your horse’s diet to ensure proper hydration. There are a few different types of electrolytes that you can offer your horse. Free choice salt, mix in powder electrolytes, and even Gatorade are the most popular options. Mix in electrolytes are typically flavored and can be added to either your horse’s water source or feed depending on what is most appetizing to them. Just make sure to monitor that they continue drinking their water source as well!
It’s a good idea to get familiarized with your horse’s normal habits and water intake so you can easily recognize when they may be getting dehydrated. A trick to determine whether your horse is dehydrated or not is to pinch a section of skin on your horse’s neck and then watch how long it takes to lay flat again. If it doesn’t immediately lay flat, then your horse could be dehydrated.
If your horse is stabled overnight, another option to help them manage the heat is to consider nighttime turnout. Your horse can stay comfy with a fan in their stall during the day and then play outside during the night when it's cooler and less buggy! If night turnout is not a possibility or your horse lives out 24/7, make sure that shelter and shade are always available!
Another factor to review during the summer months is your horse’s workload. Higher temperatures and humidity cause more stress on the horse and sometimes diminish the ability to cool themselves effectively. Consider riding your horse early in the mornings or later in the evening when the temperatures aren’t quite as high. Or consider going easy on exceptionally hot days. Your horse will thank you!
After your ride, it’s important to give your horse a proper cool down. This entails a long walk to bring down their breathing and heart rate followed by a nice cool and refreshing shower! The trick to a good hose down on a super hot day is to spray and then immediately scrape off the excess water! If you let the water sit it will just continue to heat your horse as opposed to cool them. Continue hosing and scraping until your horse is completely cool to the touch.
It's also important to keep an eye out if your horse is starting to look uncomfortable in the heat, which can lead to heat stress and then even heat stroke. Here's a great infographic from our friends at horsedmv.com!
Prevention is key in the warmer months, but always consult your vet if you suspect heat stress/stroke, dehydration, or colic. Now get out there and enjoy the beautiful weather!
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