Five things to remember to keep your horse cool this summer….
Summer has finally arrived, and it’s time to get your horse back into a packed schedule of horse shows, trail rides, and summer camp lessons. Although many riders despise long days of horse shows in long sleeved shirts and jackets, our horses are having a hard time too and are depending on us for some relief.
1) Always, Always Offer Fresh, Clean Water
Whether you’re at a horse show or your horse has a day off in the field, making sure your horse has plenty of fresh water will keep dehydration at bay. If your fielded horse has a large water trough, be sure to clean it out daily. Horses will avoid water with dead animals that sometimes get trapped in it. Also, bacteria can easily grow as scum appears, not to mention it becomes a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
“Keep your horse well hydrated – ESPECIALLY WHEN IT IS HOT – by offering 24-hour access to clean, quality water regardless of whether he’s stabled, turned out, or competing.”
The average horse drinks 5-10 gallons of water per day. However, when temperatures are over 85 degrees, drinking frequency increases, so you want to keep those levels replenished. The University of Guelph in Ontario recommends to “keep your horse well hydrated – especially when it’s hot – by offering 24-hour access to clean, quality water regardless of whether he’s stabled, turned out, or competing.”
2) Exercise During the Right Time of Day
It may seem counterintuitive to exercise your horse to keep him cooler, but horses that get more exercise develop strength and endurance to heat, which help them keep the course at horse shows and trail rides. Similar to people training for a marathon, you want to keep your horse in shape. In preparation for competition, start by riding in the heat to become acclimated, about five days per week, continually. Prof. Michael Lindinger, an animal and exercise physiologist at the University of Guelph, explains that “you need to get horses used to being ridden in the heat and allow them to develop the full spectrum of beneficial adaptations that come with heat acclimation.”
With that being said, Prof. Michael Lindinger warns that it can be dangerous to ride in hot, humid weather and to still take caution. Allowing your horse to become acclimated to the heat will teach him to drink more, helping him stay hydrated. “It only takes 17 minutes of moderate intensity exercise in hot, humid weather to raise a horse’s temperature to dangerous levels. That’s three to 10 times faster than in humans. Horses feel the heat much worse than we do.”
“You need to get horses used to being ridden in the heat and allow them to develop the full spectrum of beneficial adaptations that come with heat acclimation.”
When exercising, plan to also ride during cooler hours of the day – early morning and early evening – if your horse is not fully acclimated to the heat. Since horses have more active muscles than humans, they produce more heat and can lose up to 1-3 gallons of sweat in normal conditions, while losing up to 8 gallons in hot conditions! Losing this much water means losing salt and electrolytes, which need to be replenished.
3) Supplement & Allow Free Choice Forage
Giving a horse water is not going to reverse dehydration – salts have to be replaced. In fact, more water dilutes into the body, pushing the body to release more water, and thus, more electrolytes. Adding supplements and electrolytes to your horses’ water or feed can ensure their levels remain stable, especially with a full day, or weekend, of competition. Springtime Supplements Hoof & Coat Formula doubles as an electrolyte formula. It contains sea salt, kelp, nutritional yeast, diatomaceous earth, and biotin. The sea salt is composed of naturally occurring potassium, calcium, magnesium, and trace elements.
4) Give a Proper Cool Down
You can be sure that after a long ride your horse is going to be tired and sweaty. A proper cool down will help bring their heart rate back to normal and allow the dilation of capillaries close to the skin, which will increase the evaporation of heat from the horse. What are the steps you should take?
- Go for at least a 10-15 minute walk
- Hose your horse off after being worked
- Encourage horse to drink small amounts of cool water frequently
- Give extra electrolytes if you have finished a day of competing
- Ensure there is plenty of ventilation (e.g., a breeze through a stall or a fan)
5) Offer Shelter
If your horse is in the field during the day, be sure to provide an area that is shaded. This can be in the form of a run-in shed, or a barn that is connected to a field. Pastures that offer large trees can provide shade for horses, but having a cover helps when the heat storms come running through. Giving your horse the deciding factor of going under cover, or being in the sun will enable them to adapt to the changing climate.