Summer heat can take its toll on horses just as much as humans. Protecting your horse from summer heat and preventing dehydration is an important part of providing basic care for your animal. The following tips will help you keep your horse safe during the hottest points of the summer.
Keep Your Horse Hydrated
Like all other animals, horses need to stay hydrated. On hot days and when engaging in hard physical activity your horse may need more water than at other times of the day. Some horses are very particular about the type of water they drink, whether mixed with electrolytes or plain. Other horses must be convinced to drink, even when it’s very hot outside. These tricks will help you keep your horse hydrated:
- Use salt to encourage drinking. Sometimes it’s not enough to give your horse water to drink; some horses won’t drink enough even if water is provided. Give your horse with a salt block or with hay sprayed with salt water to encourage your horse to drink more.
- Mist your horse. Horses can absorb some moisture through the skin. This can help your horse stay hydrated and cool. If you have a misting system, use one on hot days to keep your horse cool. If you don’t have a misting system, spray down your horse with cold water from a hose several times throughout the day.
- Soak food with water. Your horse will ingest more water if the food is drenched before the meal.
- Provide water with and without electrolytes. Not all horses will drink water with electrolytes, so offer both options until you understand what your horse will drink and when.
- Change water throughout the day. Horses need fresh, cool water throughout the day. If the water is allowed to get warm, your horse may not drink as much as would be healthy.
Provide Adequate Shade
Give your horse somewhere to shady to retreat when it’s very hot outside. A shelter is best, but shade from trees is acceptable. Remember that shade provided by trees will move throughout the day as the sun moves across the sky. If you rely on shade from trees, be sure that there’s always shade from at least one tree available to your horse at all times.
Know the Warning Signs of Heat Stroke
Horses can suffer from heat stroke just like humans. Have a phone number for an emergency medical clinic on hand in case you notice that your horse is in distress, and remember these signs of heat stroke:
- Increased sweating
- Fast, thready or erratic heartbeat
- Increased sweating or lack of sweat
- Increased salivation
- Increased body temperature
It helps to know what your horse’s heartbeat and temperature are like on an everyday basis, so make the effort to become familiar with these characteristics. If your horse begins to act strangely after exercising in the summer sun, seek medical treatment right away.