How To Deal With The Summer Heat
It is becoming more frequent that we are having heatwaves within the UK and managing our horses is key. We do not want to over heat or dehydrate them. There are many factors to think of and possibly change such as riding workload, turnout/ stabled schedule.
There are many discussions about whether you should bring your horse in during the day or leave out. There is no fixed answer for this, as no yard or horse will be the same. So, there are a few things to take into consideration when making your decision.
- Is there natural shade or a shelter in the field? This will give the horses an option to get out of the sun while still having the air circulation flow around them, which is great when a breeze comes.
- Are your stables wood or brick built? Wooden stables, especially wooden slacked stables get very hot and humid, whereas brick-built stables are very good at keeping cool inside. If you’re in a barn or have extra windows this will help with the air flow.
- Will there be anyone available to top waters up if stabled. With this, you want to make sure your horse has access to plenty of clean water. Mine are terrible and try to get in the water buckets when it is really hot so I have to make sure they haven’t tipped water over.
- Is your horse likely to get sunburn?
Where I am located, I have plenty of natural shade produced from trees, and I also have a field shelter with plenty of water troughs. When temperatures reach 28 or above, I need to take off all fly rugs as my horses are naturally very hot horses. I put salt licks out and also horse licks in the field shelter to encourage them to go in (although mine naturally love the shelter and use it very regularly). I brought mine in one afternoon for 1 hour with the temperature around 30 degrees and came back to 2 very sweaty horses. So, for me I know it’s best to leave them out in the field. I drenched them with the hose and they soon cooled down quickly and did not sweat up again. It is important if you do wet your horse, do not wipe away the excess water. It’s also advised to give horses salt or electrolytes in feed to help keep your horse hydrated.
Something you need to take into consideration is whether your horse is likely to get sunburn? For mine, my concern would be their noses, but some horses can get this anywhere! So, don’t forget to use sunblock on any pink or hairless areas as after all you wouldn’t go out all day in the sun without a bit of sun screen so your horse shouldn’t either.
There are also a lot of discussions about riding in the heat. If you can try and avoid riding in the peak hours of the sun, try and beat the heat by riding first thing in the morning or late evenings. If this is not possible, then you need to take into consideration your work load, this would need to be lightened to accommodate the heat, and it is best to spread it over of a couple of short sessions throughout the day. This is allowing your horse not to over heat while riding.
If you have a horse with a lot of mane/tail, try plating this in small plaits to the neck and hind legs of the horse to allow more air movement. If your horse has a heavy thick coat, it is recommended to clip them.
Don’t forget heat stroke can happen to your horse whether he/she is stabled or out in the field. So, keep an eye out for the signs!
Signs of heat stroke can include:
• Increased heart rate
• High volume of sweating
• Fast breathing
• High Temperature
• Depression and/or lethargy
• Signs of dehydration: dry mucous membranes, poor capillary refill, and poor skin turgor.
If you do find yourself concerned that your horse could be suffering from heat stroke, call your vet for advice.
I hope this has helped.
Rachael Skinner is brand ambassador for Horsemart and Equissimo, along with running her own pages on social media called Eventful Eventing. She completed BHS stages and a diploma in horse management. Rachael is now taking the route from show jumping to Eventing.