Just like humans, horses can suffer negatively from long term exposure to high temperatures. From sunburn to heat stroke, you’re horse can be even more at risk to the ill effect of high temperatures then you are, simply because they rely largely upon their caretakers for their well-being. As an owner you decided where your horse is turned out (and when), how hard it is worked, etc.
It falls to you, as an owner and caretaker, to responsibly manage your horse when the thermostat starts to rise.
Adequate and proper turn out is essential to horse welfare at the best of times, but you need to be even more aware in the hot and humid summer months. If you horse is turned out to pasture 24/7, make sure they have adequate shade to escape the sun, as well as fresh and clean water to drink. Large tress and run-in sheds can be great escapes for your horse. Place your water troughs in the shade of trees and shelters, that way you can encourage your horses to escape the direct heat of the sun.
Don’t forget that the sun moves throughout the day, so ensure that horses that are turned out all day have access to shade no matter what time it is. Proper ventilation in run-in sheds is also essential for proper air flow and temperature control, you wouldn’t want to stand in a sweltering tin shed, so why would your horse?
For horses that are stabled at night, but turned out in the day, provide turnout times when the temperatures are lower. This may mean turning your horses out for a few hours in the early morning, or in the evening, and bringing them in during the afternoon when summer temperatures are at their highest. It may mean a little extra work for you, but your horses will thank you for it.
In the Barn
Having fans to circulate air on hot humid days can really help cool horses that are kept stabled indoors during the summer. Having windows and doors that can be opened will also help circulate the air, keeping your animals much more comfortable.
Safety tip: make sure when using fans in the barn that the fans themselves, as well as all outlets and cords are a safe distance away from your horse(s). You don’t want your horse to be able to reach them.
There are a number of things you can do to help your horse beat the heat, including providing mesh fly sheets (and/or masks) with UV protection when turned out. These items are typically lightweight and breathable, allowing your horse to avoid direct UV contact on the skin, while also keeping pesky bugs off. This will not only keep your horse cooler, but will keep them more relaxed, as they will expend less energy fending off the flies.
For lighter coloured horses, or those with exposed patches of skin, you may want to lather them up with a bit of sunscreen. Just like humans, light skinned horses can get sunburnt. Noses are the most common sunburn culprits, but the non-pigmented areas around some horse’s eyes may also get burnt. Fly masks, especially those with a nose covering can also be beneficial in providing some protection.
Horses that are being worked hard, or who sweat excessively, may need to be supplemented with electrolytes to keep them in top shape. Electrolytes can be mixed into water for your horses, but be careful with your dosages, as too many electrolytes can be harmful.
Keeping your horse’s coat clipped can also help keep them cool in the summer months.
Remember, if you’re sweating your horse is too.
Sometimes it is necessary to lighten your horse’s workload during a summer heat wave. Either plan to ride at a time when temperatures are cooler (like in the evening or early morning) or make a schedule according the predicted whether for the week. Plan to ride on days that are cooler, and give your horse a break on those particularly hot days.
Having multiple lighter rides in a week, instead of one intense ride can also minimize the heat stress put on your horse on a humid day, while still accomplishing your training goals.
Make sure your horse is thoroughly cooled down after any exercise, especially on hot days. A nice shower after a ride will also help cool your horse down, while also removing any build up of sweat caused by exercise or equipment. Plus your horse will really enjoy it.
While keeping cool during a heat wave can be a challenge, with a bit of planning and careful consideration, you and your horse can beat the heat, and even have a bit of fun.