When the warmer weather rolls around, it’s an exciting time around the stable! The horses seem to sense it too, and just can’t wait for their turn out time in the pasture. Spring and summer are some of the best times to ride, however, before going out on the trail or into the ring, make sure you’re aware of how to care for horses in the heat. Just like people, horses can respond adversely to too much heat, and can experience sun damage as well. No matter where you like to ride, if you follow these tips your horse will be in great shape and ready to enjoy all the fun of warm weather riding!
Horses love their turn out time because it’s a great way for them to get some exercise and graze on some delicious edibles. However, if you live in an area that experiences high temperatures--or high humidity-- consider adjusting your horse's turn out schedule. Depending on what your schedule is and how your stable is set up, see if you can have your horse turned out overnight--that way they will be out for the cool evening, night, and early morning. This is a great way to ensure they have access to their pasture grass at the coolest times of the day.
You’ll always want your horse to have access to a shelter in the field, just in case rainy weather happens in the middle of the night. If overnight turn out isn’t a possibility, try to get your horse out as early as you can in the morning, or wait until the evening hours when the high heat of the day has gone. Even at these times of day, make sure your horse has access to shade as well in the pasture.
It’s extremely important that your horse has access to cool, clean water all day. Depending on the temperatures, this means you’ll have to monitor and perhaps adjust where the water stations are. When a water trough has been sitting in the hot sun, eventually the water is going to warm and your horse just isn’t going to be interested in drinking it. It’s also a good idea to offer a couple of different water sources as well, and refill them as necessary with cool, clean water. To make this process easier, you might want to consider investing in an automated water supply, but even this needs to be double checked to ensure it’s working properly.
If your horse doesn’t seem to be drinking as much as they should, try putting a salt block near the water source. Not only do horses love this, but it will encourage them to drink a good portion of water afterwards.
When your horse is in the barn during the height of heat, it’s important to make sure the air isn’t stagnant, and that there is a nice breeze. You can create this by positioning a couple of good fans throughout the stable, and have them blow a gust of cool wind throughout the complex. Another way to keep your horse cool is to mist them. When they absorb water through their skin, it allows them to cool down. Some stables have misters installed for this reason, but if yours does not, a nice mist from the hose would definitely be appreciated.
If you find that your horse appears to be a little overheated, help cool them down by keeping a steady stream of water on them, and then scrape it off immediately. This should help your horse reach a much more comfortable--and safer--temperature.
If you plan to have your horse out on a sunny day, make sure that you are prepared with sunscreen. This is especially important for light colored horses, as well as those with white socks and blazes, whose skin is sensitive to the sun. Applying a protective coating of sunblock should help keep sunburn at bay, but it’s important your horse also has access to shade. This can be done with a shelter, or with strategically placed trees. An alternative to sunblock on the face is to use a fly mask that has a UV coating to help prevent uncomfortable sunburns.
One of the best ways to prevent bugs like mosquitos from breeding is to not have any standing water sources. Sometimes this just isn’t possible however, so instead make sure to change out any standing water buckets during the day. This should cut down on the amount of mosquitos inside the barn. To keep flies at bay, make sure your horse’s stall is cleaned regularly of manure. This is also a good practice to employ in the pasture as well. If the flies are particularly bad, consider getting a fly mask or a warm weather fly sheet to help alleviate the problem.
Just as you adjust the times in which you turn your horse out during the hot months, you might also want to also adjust your riding times and intensities. Instead of one intense workout, try doing a couple less intense exercises spread out over shortened sessions. This still allows you to stick to your riding routine, but allows time for your horse to cool down and stay hydrated in between rides. Riding in the morning and evening is also recommended since the temperatures tend to be cooler as well.
Horses can develop heat stroke just like people, which is why following these summer horse care tips are so important. If your horse appears to have these symptoms, call your vet immediately.
Taking care of horses in the heat requires keeping tabs on their environment and observing how they’re handling the higher temperatures. There’s plenty of fun to have with your horse in the warmer months, just make sure to keep these important tips in mind!
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