Hot Weather and Horses
It is important to know how to keep your horse healthy and happy during warm days with summer approaching. Many horses find hot weather uncomfortable, but you can do a variety of things to reduce risks and keep them comfortable.
How to keep your horse well hydrated
It is essential to keep your horse from becoming dehydrated as we approach the warmer months.
An average horse can drink up to 50 litres of water a day in hot weather. It is necessary always to have a source of clean water. If your horse isn’t drinking much, it may be because when water is left to stand, it can become warm and unpleasant to drink. Changing water often prevent this.
When in the field, you should ensure any drinking water source is clean and fresh. If there is silt in drinking water, it can lead to sand colic. If there are multiple horses in a field, then it is best to have multiple water sources. This prevents any individuals from being chased away from the only source of water. BHS suggests keeping water away from the corners of a field so that horses cannot become cornered by others.
In hot weather, horses, just like us, will sweat a lot more. Electrolytes are lost when they sweat and need to be replaced. It would be best if you considered providing mineral licks or adding electrolytes to feed. There is more information on adding electrolytes to your horses’ diet in Dr David Marlin’s article.
How to prevent overheating
In hot weather, it is a lot easier for your horse to overheat. If they cannot keep cool, then they may suffer from heat exhaustion or heat stroke. There are a few steps you can take to prevent this.
You should make sure that shade is available when your horse is turned out. A field shelter is ideal, but trees and hedges can provide shade also. If the weather is particularly hot, you might want to plan around it. Turning your horse out in the cooler morning or evening can allow them to avoid the hottest part of the day.
When your horse is stabled, you should ensure that the stables are well ventilated. If it is safe to do so, you can use fans to help create a breeze on the warmest days.
Plan exercise and rides for early morning or evening when it is coolest. Make sure to take regular breaks during exercise. Be sure to provide plenty of water after working your horse. There is no increased risk of colic from drinking directly after exercise, so you can let them drink as much as they need. After exercise, you can pour cool water over your horse the help them cool down.
If your horse has long hair, it might be good to clip them. This can help to keep them cool. Similarly, you may want to apply sun cream to your horses if they are out in the sun even more if they have pink skin and pale hair. Applying sun cream to exposed areas such as the muzzle and ears can prevent sunburn. You can find the best sun cream options in this Article by Horse & Hound.
How to recognise dehydration or heat exhaustion and what to do if they occur
It is essential to keep an eye on your horse’s health in hot weather. Dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke can pose serious health concerns. It would help if you kept an eye out for any signs of these issues so you can take the correct action to ensure your horses’ wellbeing.
Dehydration can be identified by:
- Dark urine
- Fewer droppings
- Less frequent urination
- A dry mouth and skin
- Dull eyes
- Dark gums
If you notice your horse shows signs of dehydration, you should move them to a cool area and provide plentiful drinking water. If your horse doesn’t want to drink, you can add a mint or apple juice flavouring to encourage them to do so.
Heat exhaustion can be signified by:
- Fast and shallow breathing
- Irregular heartbeat
- Lower appetite and thirst,
- Slow recovery from exercise
- Muscle spasms.
If you believe your horse shows signs of heat exhaustion, you should move them into the shade and call the vet. You can cool your horse by pouring cold water over its body. Whilst waiting for your vet, you should keep a close eye out for any other symptoms. Heat exhaustion can progress into heatstroke. Heatstroke can lead to your horse becoming unsteady or collapsing and can cause serious health problems.
We hope you and your horses enjoy the warm weather together and make the most of the summer!