Keeping horses cool in the hot summer

When the humidex begins to reach above the 100*f mark, you know it’s hot out. The air gets still and heavy, and it seems like there is no escape from the hot temperatures. But what about your horse? While you can use air conditioning and hide indoors, the indoors may not offer much relief for your horse.

Here are some tips to help your horse stay cool this summer:

Access to Water

Horses need to have access to cool water at all times. To avoid heat exaustion, horses need to stay hydrated at all times. Be sure the water is as fresh and clean as possible, as many horses will avoid warm, contaminated water even when they are thirsty. Ponies and foals may not be able to reach into deep water tubs unless they are topped up, so be sure to monitor water levels every day. While indoors, if you are finding you have a horse that is not drinking as much as they should, add a cup or two to their bucket to encourage them to drink.
Shade from the Sun

Standing outside on a sweltering hot day will cause your horse to sweat excessively, and this will cause important nutrients your body need to function. Shade can come from a run-in shelter, trees or other large structures. Horses may fight over protection from the elements (in any season) so try to maximize shelter space to avoid skirmishes in the field which could lead to injury.

Change your Barn Routine

Many owners elect to leave horse in during the heat of the day and turn them out at nighttime. This can be done gradually, such as turning your horses out later in the day and bringing them in later, until they have completely adjusted to evening turnout. Before turning horses out at night, check with your local wildlife office to ensure there are no predators in your area that may attempt to hunt your horses. Many farm owners find a donkey is enough to keep the odd coyote away. During certain times of year, be aware that bugs can be heavy during twilight hours, so use flyspray or turn out accordingly.

Avoiding Riding in the Heat

When your horse sweats, he loses valuable electrolytes through sweat. Many riders add electrolytes to water buckets after riding or a horse show. This will replenish your horse of the sodium chloride he or she has lost. When training, do not ride during the hottest hours of the day (most weather websites provide hour-by-hour breakdowns of the daily temperatures). Opt to ride during early morning or late evening, when temperatures tend to be low.

A bath is a great way to cool your horse down.

Keep White Marks from Turning Pink

For horses with lots of white, consider applying sunscreen to delicate areas such as around the nose and eyes. Some horses may even get burnt along their withers and back if they are clipped closely.  Use a sunscreen formulated for babies, as that tends to be gentler on their skin.

Protect Against Flies

Certain times of year can bring droves of flies and other biting insects to your barn. Excessive bugs will irrate your horses, leave welts on their skin and in general will make them miserable. Use the appropriate protection such as fly masks, fly sheets and fly spray to protect your horses. Good stable management will also reduce bugs, so keep your barn clean and tidy and open windows and doors to get as much airflow circulating as possible. Some owners feel garlic or other supplements to reduce your horse’s attractiveness to biting bugs.

Improve Barn Circulation

By opening windows and doors, even the hottest barn can offer some relief from the heat. Many barns use fans with sealed motors to prevents dust and debris from causing malfunctioning in the motor (which has been linked to barn fires). Avoid overheating circuits or plugging in fans overnight, as they could be a safety hazard. Do your research on suitable fans before purchasing one for your barn.

Sponge or Bathe Your Horse

A nice cool (not cold) sponge bath or hosing can make many horses feel better. Be sure to avoid getting water in the eyes, ears or nose. Focus on the legs, neck, barrel and hindquarters.

It’s great to enjoy the summer weather, but in excessive heat you need to ensure your horse is staying as cool and hydrated as possible.