Keeping your horse cool in hot weather is a must. Horses in the UK are not acclimatised to high heat and therefore find it harder to deal with these soaring temperatures. This is why it is so important to implement some small changes to help keep them cool over this hot period of weather.
- Make sure they always have access to fresh cold water
- clean water buckets and troughs regularly
- Provide shade and fans to assist airflow (if possible)
- open vents and windows in their barn or stable
- If you need to ride, do this in the early morning or late evening and limit the length of time you actually ride. BUT think to yourself – do you actually need to ride??
- Change turnout patterns to overnight turnout
- this allows horses to graze when temperatures are cooler and flies are not as active
- Shower your horse with a nice cold spray – I’m sure they will love this!
- Provide electrolytes in wet feeds if your horse has sweated excessively. Providing free access to salt licks at all times encourages drinking too.
- Any pink areas of skin must be covered in high factor sunscreen (ideally sunblock)
- Make sure they are protected from flies e.g. with fly sprays
- Don’t transport your horse in high temperatures. It is illegal for professional transporters to travel horses in temperatures of 30C or above. All horse owners should abide by this rule.
- Clip horses with long hair coats such as those with Cushing’s disease to help minimise overheating
- Some horses love frozen treats that can be prepared ahead of time and placed in a feed bowl. An example would be freezing chopped apples in a small bowl of water. This will provide entertainment for your horse while helping keep them cool and encouraging them to take in fluids. Check out this website for some recipes
So, how do horses naturally cool themselves?
Horses sweat to help maintain their body temperatures. The sweat evaporates from the skin surface in hot temperatures and leads to a cooling effect for the horse. It is important to note, if you cover your horse in a sheet it conversely hinders cooling as it reduces sweat evaporation.
Did you know, a horse that is worked in high heat can lose between 8-16 litres of sweat in 1 hour!!!
Overheating in the horse
When horses are exposed to high temperatures for a long period of time and are not supported during this time e.g. with methods to keep them cool, they can develop heat stress.
Signs of heat stress are:
- High rectal temperature – 39C
- Profuse sweating
- High heart rate
- High respiratory rate
- Increased skin tent (must be taken at the point of shoulder)
- If heat stress goes undetected or untreated, it can lead on to the much more serious condition of heat stroke.
Signs of heat stroke are:
- Very high rectal temperature – 41C
- High heart rate and respiratory rate
- Signs of distress – agitation and whinnying
- Increased skin tent at point of shoulder
Heat stress is a serious condition and needs immediate attention. Treatment of heat stress involves cooling the horse.
Heat stroke is an EMERGENCY as it can quickly lead to death. You must call your vet immediately.
Treatment of heat stroke includes:
- Rapid cooling of your horse with cold water – use a constant stream of water over the whole horse and DO NOT SCRAPE
- Get the horse out of the sun
- Surround them with fans if possible – airflow helps encourage and speed evaporation
- Provide cool water to drink – offer small amounts of water regularly rather than one large gulp
Your vet will most likely administer intravenous fluids and electrolytes.
Prevention is much better than cure! If in doubt, contact your veterinary surgeon for advice on how to keep your horse cool in this weather. You and your horse can easily enjoy this lovely weather we are currently basking in with a few easy steps.