By Brigita McKelvie
We all enjoy our horses during the summer, but the heat during this time of year can be dangerous for horses. It can result in dehydration, lethargy, and severe heat stress causing diarrhea or colic.
Here are some hot weather tips to help your horses survive the summer heat:
1- Provide fresh, cool water at all times, making sure it is available 24/7. If water is left for a long period of time, it will turn stagnant, which is unhealthy for the horses. A horse can be encouraged to drink more water by providing free access to a salt block. If the horse is sweating a lot, adding electrolytes to the water will help keep the body in balance. Keep another bucket of plain water along side because too many electrolytes may be harmful.
2- Try to work the horse during the cooler part of the day, either early in the morning or in the evening, Slow down the work, especially if it is during the heat of the day. If the humidity is high, breathing can be difficult. Cool the horse down slowly, offering frequent cool sips of water. Remove the tack as soon as possible and sponge down the horse with cool water.
3- If the horse lives outdoors, make sure there is shade. The best source would be a run-in shed. Trees also help, but make sure shade is available throughout the day.
4- Provide moving air in the barn and stalls. Fans are a good source to circulate the air, making sure it is pulling the air out of the stall and barn and not just blowing around the hot air. Make sure the wires and plugs are out of the horses reach.
5- During extremely hot and humid days, the horse will benefit from either a misting or a sponging down with cool water. The moisture on the skin will help the horse keep cool.
6- If at all possible, turn the horse out during the night when it is cooler.
7- Clip the horses that have a longer hair coat. The long coat will hold heat and make it difficult for the horse to cool down.
8- Know your horse and the signs of heat stroke. Heat stroke can occur at any time the horse is exposed to excessive heat. It can happen when exercising in hot conditions. It can also happen if standing in a hot stall or trailer.
Signs of heat stroke are:
– Elevated heart rate that will not return to normal within a reasonable amount of time
– Excessive sweating or NO sweating
– Body temperature above 103F that persists
– Depression & lethargy
– Signs of dehydration: dry mucous membranes, poor capillary refill, when skin is pinched it does not return to normal state
If the horse shows signs of suffering from heat stroke, call the veterinarian immediately and move to horse to a cooler place.
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