- Water and an unlimited supply of it is the most important thing to remember. An average size horse, in work, can consume over 25 gallons of water per day when the temperature is above 70°F. So make sure that you keep your water troughs and buckets clean and free from insects to encourage your horse to drink.
- If you usually keep your horse in the stable at night and out by day in the winter it is a good idea to swap this for the summer months. This will mean they are not out with the worst of the flies and will avoid the hottest part of the day. It will also give them time to rest during the day and cool down at night if we have a prolonged hot spell. An added advantage is that the time inside will help control their weight, however, they should still have some forage eg: hay to keep them occupied and their digestive system working.
- Keep the windows open to ensure a through breeze.
- If possible spray your horse’s stable walls and/or field shelter with an insecticide to reduce the number of flies.
- If your horse is grass kept all year and you do not have access to a stable, ensure there is a shady place for them to rest. Trees provide fantastic shade but a field shelter will also provide respite from the flies.
- Remove droppings from your paddock regularly and keep the muck heap a good distance away from your horse’s stable to help reduce fly problems.
- Use a fly sheet if possible, fly repellent and fly fringes are also useful.
- If your horse is bitten you can treat a one-off bite, with an ice pack or bathe with cool, salt water (use a teaspoon of salt to two mugs of water). If your horse has multiple bites, using a mild horse shampoo may help to remove scurf or bacteria which can irritate the area and will cool the inflamed skin.
- White areas on the face and heels can become sunburnt because they have less skin pigment and hair coverage, so if your horse has to be in the field in the heat of the day, remember to apply sun cream to these areas. Human sun cream with a high factor is usually appropriate but if your horse tends to be sensitive then a more natural cream may be the answer.
Chesney gets sunburnt on his pink nose!
- Sweet itch is a miserable disease for those horses that suffer. Midges are more prevalent in wet areas close to lakes and streams, so if possible avoid these areas, have a look at my blog for more information.
- If your horse is still particularly hairy in the summer it may be worth considering clipping. Keeping their manes short will also help to keep your horse cool.
- Sponge cold water over your horse, or if he will tolerate it use a hose, especially down the large blood vessels under the belly and neck and inside the legs. This will help lower the temperature relatively quickly.
- Wet weather following a long dry spell can result in a flush of new grass growth similar to spring, so you may need to limit your horse’s grazing if you are concerned about laminitis or weight gain. Check out my blogs.
- If you’re competing, leave as early as possible to avoid travelling in the heat. Keep windows open to keep fresh air flowing through the horsebox. When you arrive think about whether your horse would be cooler standing in the lorry or trailer out of direct sun or better outside in the shade.
Extreme heat can take its toll on a horse working or standing in a stuffy stable or trailer. Heatstroke occurs when a horse is unable to get rid of excess heat from his body. The horses’ natural cooling process will include moving blood flow closer to the skin but this will also mean less oxygen getting to internal organs and the brain. When a horse is also sweating excessively heat stroke can follow. Heatstroke is a serious condition. Severe cases of heatstroke lead to collapse, seizures, or death.
- Elevated respiratory rate – if breathing becomes shallow and remains elevated after a few minutes rest
- Elevated heart rate- that again remains elevated after a few minutes rest
- Elevated temperature – 103° or higher
- Sweating – if your horse is sweating all over or stops sweating entirely
- Lethargy – depression, disinterest in food, stumbling or collapsing
If you suspect that your horse may be suffering from heatstroke:
- Stop work immediately
- Allow him to rest in a cool stable or under a shady tree
- Pour cool water over his back
- Offer small amounts of water every few minutes
- If symptoms persist contact your vet.
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Until next time!