While there’s not much better than riding on a beautiful summer day, too much heat can be dangerous for horses. Caring for horses in warmer weather requires paying extra attention to their needs to prevent serious health and performance issues. Read on to find out how to keep your animals hydrated, healthy, and happy all season long.
What Happens When Horses Overheat?
Horses release heat through sweat just like us. However, their bodies are much more effective at keeping themselves warm than cooling themselves down. Whether racing or galloping through fields, these animals can have difficulty cooling off when exerting high energy for prolonged periods of time, especially on a hot or humid day. Significant heat stress can potentially be fatal for many horses if not monitored. Here are a few warning signs of an overheated horse to watch out for:
- Heightened body temperature.
- Reduction in skin elasticity.
- Sunken eye sockets.
- Reddened gums.
- Prolonged rapid breathing.
When a horse does overheat, it can become dangerous for both the horse and rider. They become much weaker, which can cause them to lose their balance and fall. And, “Left untreated, a horse with heat stress might exhibit neurologic signs including seizures and suffer serious damage to his heart, muscles, and kidneys.” (Source: The Horse)
Tips for Caring for Horses in the Summer
In order to prevent heat stress and these potentially fatal risks from occurring, it’s vital to take extra precautions when caring for horses in the summer. Follow these few tips to keep your horses cool this summer.
1. Condition your horse for the season.
Don’t take your horse for a long or intense ride on the first hot day of the season if he’s been pretty dormant over winter. An out of shape, overweight, or under-muscled horse may struggle to adjust to the added stress relating to the heat.
Instead, gradually build your horse’s amount of daily activity as temperatures and humidity rise. Exercise your horse in the early mornings or later evenings (depending on your schedule) to minimize activity in the hotter parts of the day. Or, adjust exercise duration based on outdoor conditions. Take shorter rides on more humid days and enjoy longer ones when the weather’s more pleasant. After workouts, allow your horse to cool down by taking him for a walk and brushing sweat and water off his skin. As your horse builds stamina and strength, they should be able to effectively stay cool when necessary.
2. Caring for horses means keeping them hydrated.
When getting ready for a ride or race, keep plenty of cool water nearby to hydrate your horse. Most average-sized horses drink between 8 to 10 gallons of water a day. During exceptionally strenuous activity, horses constantly need to replenish with more fluids, even if they seem reluctant.
Encourage your horses to drink water periodically through any workout. You can also splash or spray cold water on them to help them stay cool. The hotter the outdoor temperatures, the colder the water should be. And to further keep your horse balanced and hydrated, many riders use electrolyte supplementation to prevent fatigue, muscle cramps, and horse colic. (For more on electrolytes for horses, you can find more information here).
3. Provide them a cool place to rest.
One of the best ways to keep your horse cool is by providing them with a shaded, well-ventilated area for resting and grazing. As mentioned in our livestock shelter post, barns often become stuffy and unsanitary, with low-ventilation and such confinement creating potentially detrimental health issues. However, resting outside in the beaming sun isn’t exactly ideal either. Not only do horses need breezy shade to avoid heat stress, but these animals can get sunburn just like us. A quality shade solution helps them cool down outdoors and helps prevent sunburn.
Utilize run-in sheds and corral shelters to provide just enough shade and fresh air without confining horses. Run-in sheds offer an easy-to-use open-style shelter structure, while corral shelters easily attach to corral panels you already have. These affordable and practical solutions consist of all-steel frames and a durable fabric cover with open ends on both sides. Allow your horse to easily enter, leave, and rest under quality shade whenever they need to in order to effectively stay cool and comfortable.
Keep Your Horses and Livestock Cool All Summer Long
While we all love to soak up the summer sun, the seasonal heat can be quite dangerous for us and our livestock. By planning ahead, ensuring plenty of hydration, and utilizing quality shade and shelter solutions, horses stay cool and comfortable during the hot summer season. Check out our selection of equine essentials to find the ultimate shade and shelter solution for animals, bulk storage, and accessories to enhance your shelters.