The summer heat can be dangerous to horses, especially when it is made worse by high humidity. Horses can become dehydrated, lethargic and generally reluctant to work. Severe heat stress can cause colic, diarrhoea or collapse, so it is important to keep your horse cool.
Young, old and ill horses are more vulnerable and must be monitored carefully.
Always think about the causes of overheating, which include the obvious, such as very hot weather, but there are also other causes, such as:
- Excessive exercise
- Prolonged exposure to direct sunlight or turn out without shade
- Poor ventilation in stabling
- Transporting over long distances
- Inappropriate rugs
How to prevent overheating:
- Choose the coolest times of the day for both exercise and turnout.
- Provide shade – trees are best as one side will always be out of the sun, whereas most shelters are in full sun some of the time.
- Slow down the work in warm weather ( try to reduce the amount of work and working in coolest times of the day)
- Provide fresh, cool water and lots of it. Most horses drink more in warm weather, but others will need a salt lick or extra salt to encourage them to do so.
- Provide salt/mineral licks in field/stable or consider adding electrolytes in feed
- If you are bringing horses in to avoid the heat, ensure there is adequate ventilation. It is safe to do so, it can help hugely to use fans to provide a breeze.
- Clip hairy horses, such as those with Cushing’s disease
- Avoid sunburn: Horses especially those with pink “fleshmarks” (i.e. pink noses) can suffer from sunburn, but the sun can also affect white socks, blazes and hairless patches from scarring. Fly masks & sheets can help, as well as generous application of sunblock. Staying out of the sun is best. If a horse has excessive sunburn, it can indicate underlying liver disease. If you are unsure call us and we can check this out with a simple blood test.
Signs of heat stroke to watch out for:
- Profuse sweating
- Increased temperature, pulse and respiratory rates
- Lethargy and dullness
- A reluctance to work
- Loss of appetite
- Staggering and weakness
- Muscle tremors
Treatment of overheating:
- Move your horse into shade immediately
- Cold hosing of the whole body, focusing on the big muscle masses in the hindquarters. Do not put wet towels over them as that just traps the heat. It is best not to scrape off excess water and sweat, but to leave the water to evaporate.
- Gentle walking or stand in a breeze / under a fan to help cooling.
- Offer small amounts of cold water to drink (half a bucket, maximum 10l) every 30 minutes
Please call us on 01622 813700, if you are worried at all or have any questions.