With the scorching summer months fast approaching, it is essential that horse owners consider how the the dog days of summer will affect their beloved horses. Same as people, horses can become quickly overheated when it’s hot and sunny outside, especially if they are being active. Just like you wouldn’t keep a pet dog cooped up in a steaming hot car while you’re grocery shopping, horses appreciate a cool breeze and a drink of water just as much as the next animal.
Obviously, when it’s hot outside, a horse is more likely to suffer from heat-stress. So how do you know if your horse is suffering? Look for the following signs:
- An elevated respiratory rate and/or heart rate
- Increased amount of sweat
- Your horse is acting lethargic
- Discolored gums (red)
- An abnormally high body temperature (anything over 105 degrees should really concern owners)
To cool a horse down, there are several smart things you can do. If you’re riding the horse, dismount and give the horse a break from exercise. Remove the saddle to allow cool air to flow over his or her body.
Give your horse a drink of cool water. Just like humans, horses need water to drink so they don’t get dehydrated. If you can, find a shade tree for the horse to rest under, and if you know of a particularly breezy spot, that would be optimal place to hang out.
You also have the option of putting a large fan on your horse (especially in your stables, sheds or barns), or giving your horse a cold water bath. If your horse is finicky about being sprayed with a hose, try a sponge-bath with an even ratio of alcohol and water, as this will help cool him or her down faster.
Should your horse seem really “out of it,” even after cooling down after ten minutes, call a vet and have him or her take a look. Heat-stress is nothing to mess with, and the last thing you want is for your horse to be distressed.
Other practical tips to keep your horse from experiencing heat-stress include riding early in the day when it’s not as hot outside, using less tack, making sure drinking water is available at all times, and adding electrolytes to your horse’s drinking water for especially hot days, or when you plan on them being active.