With news headlines like: “Dangerously Hot Temperatures Expected This Week as Massive Heat Dome Envelops Much of U.S.”, it’s obvious summer has officially arrived.
While we can seek refuge from the extreme heat in our air-conditioned homes and vehicles, horse don’t always have that same luxury. Here are a few tips to keep your horses comfortable and healthy throughout the summer months.
#1 Keep your horses hydrated. On a cool day, horses will drink anywhere between five and 10 gallons of water a day to stay hydrated. Working in the summer heat, horses can lose water volume up to 4 gallons per hour and can require as much as double their normal water intake.
To make sure your horses stay hydrated, provide access to at least one source of clean, fresh and cool water (recommended temperature range of 45 to 64°F) in stalls or pastures. Also, consider adding an electrolyte supplement to your horse’s diet, which could help them drink more and restore electrolytes lost from sweating.
If you’re traveling with horses, you will want to stop every four to five hours to offer your horses water and check their demeanor. This is especially true if you’re traveling during the heat of the day. Be sure to bring an ample supply of water with you to make sure your horses won’t refuse to drink because they don’t like the taste of unfamiliar water.
#2 Adjust your schedule. If possible, ride early in the mornings or in the evening when the temperatures are cooler. Keep work light on extremely hot days and take frequent breaks to allow your horse to cool down.
The same goes for hitting the road. Traveling during the hottest part of the day can be challenging for horses under normal circumstances. Even with the windows and vents open, trailers can get very warm. If you run into traffic or have a flat tire, you could be putting your horses at a greater risk of heat exhaustion.
Also, if you keep your horses stalled, consider switching to night turn out. Not only is it cooler, but there are usually fewer insects out as well.
#3 Cool them down with a bath. There’s nothing better than taking a cool shower after a hard day’s work outside. The same goes for our equine counterparts. A cool bath helps remove the sweat and aid in the cooling process. If you think your horse might be experiencing heat stress (internal heating higher that 103.5°F), immediately spray or sponge the horse’s head, back, neck, rump, and legs with cool water and scrape the water off immediately. Repeat this process until the horse’s temperature drops below 103.5°F. Be careful not to cool the horse too rapidly because this can lead to muscle cramping and additional discomfort for the horse. Walk your horse in the shade every 5-10 minutes before continuing to hose him. This will also help with circulation and ease any residual muscle tightness.
#4 Use fans in stalls, shelters and trailers. While fans don’t actually make the air any cooler, they do make us (and our horses) feel cooler. This perceived effect is called “wind chill”. Additionally, the moving air is generally enough to keep insects at bay. However, make sure that you are using a fan designed for barn or outdoor usage. There have been many reports of fires started by box fans that are commonly found at home improvement and discount stores. Also, be sure to keep cords and plugs out of the reach of horses to prevent electrocution.
If your run-in shelter has electricity, fans can help keep air moving and help keep insects away. It’s a good idea to have fans installed in trailers, too. While there is usually a sufficient amount of air movement while the trailer is moving, fans can be useful if you are stuck in traffic or moving at slower speeds.
#5 Use shade to your advantage. Similar to fans, shade doesn’t actually make the temperature cooler. However, being in direct sunlight can make it feel 10 to 15°F warmer than it actually is outside. If you don’t have any natural shade in your turn out area, make sure your horses have access to a run-in shed that has good ventilation or fans.
The summer heat doesn’t mean you have to abandon riding altogether. It just means you need to take some extra precautions and pay attention to your horse’s well being.
#6 Wear Clothing Designed To Keep You Cool. Choose clothing with ultra fast wicking and drying properties, in a mesh fabric for maximum air flow. Ovation’s Cool-Rider Zip-Mock shirt is made with Evercool, the cutting edge fabric technology that reduces body temperature by promoting a rapid dry time. Better yet it is available in seven bright colors. Ovation’s Aqua X Breeches are made of MIPAN Aqua-X lightweight woven Nylon/Lycra fabric, which is the ultimate for summer activities, where sweat absorption and UV protection are required. They offer cool-to-touch finish, UV protection, high absorbency and are extremely quick drying. Available in knee patch or full seat.
#7 Choose Products Designed To Keep Your Horse Cool. Choose a saddle pad designed to minimize heat under the saddle, such as Ovation’s Coolmax Diamond All-Purpose Pad with coolmax lining.