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Summer is here, and as much as we enjoy the warm weather, heat can be quite dangerous for our horses, resulting in rapid dehydration. Severe heat stress can even cause diarrhoea or colic.
Here are a few things for you to keep in mind:
1. Fans – if your horse is stabled in a barn, a simple old-fashioned fan can help to keep the air moving (just make sure that it needs to be kept in safe distance from any area you might handle your horse)
2. If your horse spends most of the day outside in the field, turn the clock and allow your horse to graze early morning, late afternoon, or evening. Overnight turnout is ideal if this is an option.
3. Does your field provide any shade? If your fields don’t offer any shade, you should think about investing in a simple wooden shelter.
4. Sunburn – Horses, and especially white horses, can get sunburned. Anything like pink noses, white marks, or hairless patches and healing wounds can suffer in the sun. Use your fly sheets and masks (available with nose cover) and apply sunblock cream to those areas in the morning.
5. Water – make sure that water is available at ALL times. Did you know that an average horse needs about 50 litres of water? And if your horse is in training, it might need even more. Just like us, horses prefer cool, fresh water to warm water from the other day. If you don’t have an automatic watering system, make sure that the water gets checked and changed every day. If it gets really hot, your horse might want a salt lick next to the water or soaked hay. If your horse has been working hard, have some electrolytes at hand. Mix those according to the manufacturer’s instructions into the water but make sure to have a second bucket with plain water available, since not all horses appreciate the taste of electrolytes.
6. Have you ever misted your horse? Horses usually love a fine water shower, in fact, many prefer that to the harsh hose pipe treatment. It will cool your horse in a flash, and can be done a few times a day without any mess, or wasting any water! Simply, get a cheap empty bottle from your garden shop.
7. Training – don’t pick high-noon as your preferred training time. Early morning and late afternoons are best for training in summer.
8. Heat stroke – horse and rider can suffer easily from heat stroke in hot weather. It can happen at any time, very quickly! Don’t ride at lunchtime, and keep an eye on your horse’s breathing during the training. Long walks are excellent training on a hot summer’s day. Take off any unnecessary tack right away and sponge the horse off (before you enjoy your cold drink!). And be aware that hot stables and long journeys in a hot trailer can be equally dangerous. Here are some signs of a heat stroke (please keep in mind that a horse will usually display a number of symptoms at the same time, and not only one):
– An elevated heart rate which doesn’t return to normal within 30 minutes after training. You can find your horse’s pulse by pressing your fingers – not your thumb! – against the inside of your horse’s jawbone. Once you can feel the pulse, count the beats for 60 seconds. An average rested horse will have about 40 heart beats per minute, consistent heart beats of 80 per minute can be dangerous for your horse.
– Panting and/or rapid breathing
– Excessive sweating, or the total absence of sweat
– Restlessness, or lethargy
– Excessive salivation, or totally dry mucous membranes
– High body temperature
– Muscle spasms
Well, we sincerely hope that we haven’t frightened you in any way, but summer can be hard for our equine partners, so… BE KIND TO THEM AND YOURSELVES