The heat can play havoc with your horse's health. It can result in dehydration, lethargy, and general malaise. Severe heat stress can result in diarrhea and even colic. In a release issued July 1, Janet Johnston, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, ACVS, an emergency critical care veterinarian at University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine's New Bolton Center, suggested the following ten tips to keep your horse comfortable and safe in the summer heat.
1. Choose your turnout times. If your horse has a stall but is turned out for part of the day, provide turnout during the cooler hours. Overnight is ideal, but if that's not possible, turnout as early as possible during the day.
2. Give him shade. If he lives outdoors or must be out during the day, provide relief from the sun. A run-in shed is best. Trees are a source of shade as well, but as the sun moves so will the shade.
3. Move that air. Fans are a great way to help keep the air moving in the barn, but use them wisely. Always ensure that your horse can't get a hold of cords and plugs.
4. Mist it. If you are lucky enough to have a system to mist your horse, use it. As the moisture is absorbed from your horse's skin, it will take away some of the heat as well. Frequent misting is more effective at cooling a horse than a single dousing with the hose.
5. Lead him to water. Make sure your horse has plenty of fresh, cool water. A bucket hanging on a fence will get too warm to be appealing to your horse. Left long enough water will also become stagnant and unhealthy. If you provide clean, cool water and your horse doesn't seem to be drinking, encourage him by providing a salt block.
6. Electrolytes. If your horse is sweating a great deal, water laced with electrolytes can help keep his body in balance. Whenever you offer electrolytes, however, be sure to offer fresh water as well. Too many electrolytes and too little water can be harmful.
7. Slow down the work. Just because your horse has been working intensely in the heat of the day doesn't mean he continue when the temperature tops 90°F. If you have to work him in the heat, lighten the work or break it up into a couple of short sessions. This is especially important when the humidity is high and contributing to the poor quality of the air he is breathing.
8. Stick to a schedule. Within the parameters of keeping him cool, try to stay as close as possible to his normal schedule. Too much change at one time can be an invitation for colic to develop.
9. White out! Horses, especially white or light-colored horses, can suffer from sunburn. Even those with white socks, blazes, pink noses, or hairless patches can be prone to sunburn. Using a fly sheet can help, and applying sunblock to small, particularly vulnerable areas can also be effective. Staying out of the sun's harmful rays will, of course, be best. (Also be aware: if a horse has excessive sunburn it could indicate a rare, underlying liver disease.)
10. Clipping horses with longer hair coats is important , especially those with Cushing's disease. While some coat can provide protection from the sun and insulation, a thick coat tends to hold heat in and make it difficult for the horse to cool down.
Related Content on TheHorse.com:
- Beat the Heat
- Heat Stress in Horses
- Hot Summer Tip: Pay Attention to Horse's Physical State
- Summer Riding: When the Rider is Hot, the Horse is Hotter
- FARM CALL: Summer Horse Housing: Barn or Pasture with Shade?
- BOOK EXCERPT: Summer Heat Too Hot to Handle?
Disclaimer: Seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian before proceeding with any diagnosis, treatment, or therapy.