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First Posted: Aug 10, 2011
Aug 10, 2011

Way Too Hot to Trot

July/August 2011 Volume 2, Issue 4, MARE Center News

"You wipe your forehead and take a drink from your water bottle, wondering when the heat will break. However, it is not just you that feels the struggle to stay cool. Your horses, too, may be working to keep themselves from overheating during this heat wave. The first thing to make sure you provide is plenty of fresh, clean water. The average horse will consume 5-7 gallons of water on a "normal" day. Extreme temperatures result in excessive sweating, which can lead to dehydration and heat stress. A horse combating high environmental temperatures may drink up to 20 gallon.

Make sure that enough water tanks available so that a more dominant horse does not keep more timid herdmates away from the water. Most horses enjoy being hosed down during hot weather, too! In addition to water, electrolytes are lost in sweat, so it is also important to make sure the horse has access to a salt block. Most horses will eat enough salt to meet their needs whether you provide loose or block salt. Another option would be to add electrolytes to a little bit of grain. The next important thing to provide is shade. This can be in the form of a stand of trees, a run-in shed, or a stall. Often, just being able to get out of the sun will go a long way toward helping the horse stay cool.

Another concern that accompanies heat is insects. Using fly sheets or insect repellant during active times of the day will help keep your horses comfortable. Horses constantly on the move trying to escape biting flies will sweat more and not drink as much, making them more susceptible to dehydration. Hanging burlap strips over doorways can help brush off insects and prevent them from entering the shelter. In shaded areas, ensuring adequate air movement and ventilation will not only help keep the horse cool but will also deter flying insects.

Some owners may be concerned with heat stress if horses are standing in the sun. In reality, it is not lounging in a pasture that causes heat stress; it is moderate to heavy physical activity in hot weather that does it. Light work, such as trail rides, should not cause the horse to become ill, particularly if you take breaks and make sure the horse drinks. Excessive sweating, losing water and electrolytes, combined with the internal heat generated during physical activity are what make the horse ill. Provide them water, salt, shade, and protection from insects. Then sit back and wait for the cooler weather to arrive!"


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