When the weather starts to heat up, riding your horse can be a lot more enjoyable. However, it’s important to remember that high temperatures can be dangerous for your horse with issues such as dehydration, malaise, and lethargy not being uncommon, and illnesses such as diarrhoea and colic being a real possibility.
With that in mind, we’ve put together some top tips for looking after your horse when the weather heats up, which you can read right now…
Turnout When It’s Cool Out
When the weather is hot, it’s far more sensible to turnout your horse during the cooler hours such as early mornings and evenings, or best of all overnight if it is possible to do so. That way you won’t have to worry about him overheating when he is not under the protection of his stall, and he’ll be a lot more comfortable as a result.
Provide extra feed
This may not be necessary, but if the high heat has impacted on the quality of your pasture, you may need to provide extra feed to your horse so that he has enough nutrients to keep him healthy. Generally, you will need to do this is the grass becomes very sparse and dried out. Horses need a lot of energy and a poor pasture just isn’t going to cut it.
Make sure there’s shade
If you own an outdoor horse, you need to ensure that he has a safe place to shelter away from the heat of the sun’s rays. A run-shed is ideal for this but large trees can be used too — you just need to ensure that there are enough of them so that wherever the sun is in the sky, your horse can find a safe place to shelter.
Ensure there’s always water
It goes without saying that your horse needs plenty of water, but what that constitutes is likely to be far more in the warm weather than in the winter, for example. As well as filling your horse’s water trough with plenty of clean, fresh water, and ensuring that it never runs dry and never becomes stagnant, you should also think about adding a salt block into the mix too. This ill encourage your horse to drink more, which is what he needs to do if he doesn’t want to get dehydrated and provide him with some much-needed electrolytes. Your aim is to do whatever you can to keep your horse’s hydration levels up in the healthy range.
Moving the air around by fanning the barn is a really easy way of keeping your horse cool when the weather really starts to heat up. Just remember that, if you’re using an electric fan, you need to keep the wires out of your horse’s reach.
Spray your horse
Another thing you can do to keep your horse cool and comfortable is to use a misting system to spray him with water droplets. His skin will absorb this water much more effectively than he would a quick spray with a hose, for a better level of cooling.
Slow the pace
Chances are that your horse will not be able to work quite as intensely as he was able to in cooler weather. That means you need to be sensible and either cut down on the amount of work he does, or the intensity of the work he does. This is something you should do even in the early mornings and evenings when it may be a little cooler because the heat and humidity throughout the rest of the day will still have affected him.
When he’s working, take more regular breaks, get him to sip cool water and remove his tack the moment you’re done before misting him with more cool water. He might be strong, but he needs to take it easy when it’s hot out.
Keep your routine
Although, as mentioned above, you may need to make a few changes when it’s hot out if you want to avoid your horse getting colic, it’s best to stick to your normal routine as far as it is possible to do so. If you present him with too many changes too soon, he could get sick.
Use a fly sheet
Fly sheets are a great piece of kit for preventing sunburn in horses. If your horse is white or grey, you might want to consider using one to cover them up and keep them as safe as possible when the sun is beating down.
Of course, you should also be using sunblock on your horses to keep them safe from the risk of sunburn and scarring. This should be applied to any areas that are exposed (such as bald patches) or particularly vulnerable to sun damage.
It’s worth noting that horses that suffer from bad sunburn often have problems with their livers. So, if despite your best efforts, your horse does get badly burnt, it might be a good idea to have them checked out by a vet.
Clip your horse
Clipping your horse is sensible during periods of warm weather — especially if they have an illness like Cushing’s disease — because it will make it easier for them to cool down. However, having some coat left is a good idea to help protect your horse from the rays of the sun. So, you do need to find a good balance and not cut it too close.
Know what to look for
An increased heart rate that stays elevated for a prolonged period ( you should know your horse’s normal heart rate so you can check)
Sweating more than usual or not sweating at all
A temperature above 39.4°C
Signs of dehydration like poor skin turgor and dry mucous membranes
If you have any worries about the health of your horse during hot weather, or at any time at all for that matter, do not hesitate to call your vet. Move your horse to the coolest safe place you can find and use some of the measures above to keep him as comfortable as possible.