Keeping Your Horse Cool - Hot Weather Care Is a Must!
Summer's not even here yet and already our heat index is soaring above 105 degrees almost daily ! It's imperative that you keep your horse as cool as possible in this heat and humidity.Horses in our area are already experiencing the negative effects of high heat and humidity such as dehydration,colic and anhydrosis.Some quick tips to help you and them cope with the heat:
1.Keep your horse inside during the heat of the day in a well ventilated barn, with plenty of fresh water and a fan if possible.If you don't have a barn or it is not well ventilated (hotter in than out),then find a turn out or pasture with plenty of shade during the hot hours of the day.If neither of these is possible, then check your horse often and hose him down and scrape or towel dry as often as needed to keep him cool.You may also want to consider a temporary move for summer to a cooler spot or providing a pasture shelter. Too much heat can be life threatening !
2.Be sure your horse has plenty of fresh,clean,cool water and that he is drinking often.
3.Refresh outside water tanks and indoor buckets often.If the water becomes too warm or dirty your horse may not drink.Clean tanks frequently and run them over daily to cool them down.Always check automatic waterers daily to be sure they're working correctly.I prefer buckets so I can tell how much my horse is drinking at a glance....yes,a bit old fashioned...lol
4.Be sure your horse has access to white salt blocks inside and out.Himilayan pink salt is also available in blocks and is another good choice.I avoid the red mineral blocks since some horses over indulge and ingest toxic amounts of the minerals.Often these blocks are balanced for cattle or other livestock rather than horses.If you insist on these, be sure it is made for horses and keep an eye on your horse's intake.
5.If needed, you can add "homemade" electrolytes to his feed.Processed electrolytes contain mostly sugar and sodium.Electrolytes are especially helpful for working horses.Mix 1 TBLS of organic black strap molasses with 1TBLS of unprocessed sea salt.I find this to be a healthy alternative (used in these small amounts) to the processed,high sugar,high sodium products on the market and it doesn't hype my horses up.Black strap is full of nutrients such as iron,potassium, calcium,magnesium,copper and manganese.Be sure to get organic blackstrap to ensure these nutrients are in it.Unprocessed sea salt is also full of many trace minerals (approx 84)...unlike regular salt that is all sodium.Sea salt in small amounts is actually healthy.Avoid sugary "sweet" feeds in hot weather.It heats your horse up and adds to summer fly problems.
6.Hosing your horse down during the hottest part of the day will also help.Just be sure to start at his feet,legs and work your way up if he's very hot.Going right for the head or chest can shock an over heated system.Always be sure to scrape off the excess water and towel dry...especially on very humid days.You want to leave just enough dampness that it will cool your horse as it evaporates.Too much water left on the coat, especially in high humidity, will not evaporate well.Then this water heats back up to the horse's body temperature (99.5-101 degrees F)and makes him even hotter.
7.Only work your horse in the high heat of summer months if he is fit and acclimated.I suggest feeding electrolytes for all horses working in hot weather.Work during the coolest hours of the day...early morning or late evening.If your horse is unfit , keep it at a walk,during cool hours and in the shade if possible.. or wait for the cooler months to fit back up.Keep an eye on the amount of sweat he is producing and how hard he is breathing.Lightly sweating all over is as hot as you should let him get.Once he is sweating over his eyes, becomes lathered or is panting with flared ,red nostrils, you've over done it. As soon as you're done or if he becomes over heated, move him to the shade, get him untacked and hosed down (start at feet) as quickly as possible.Always remember to run the hot water out of the hose so you don't burn him ! If he's having trouble cooling down or is still breathing hard,take his temp to be sure he is back in the normal range (99.5-101 degrees F).If it stays above normal,keep hosing and call your vet.When the temp gets too high muscle and organ damage, collapse are possible (tying up).Also, if your horse does not sweat at all or stops sweating altogether,this is a sign of serious over-heating or anhydrosis.Get him in the shade, cooled down immediately, take his temp and call your vet for instructions.
8.Avoid feeding large amounts of hay during the hot hours of the day.Small amounts of wet feed and hay are best.Hay creates heat as it is digested, so it heats a horse up.If they are in during the day, the lack of movement also makes digestion more difficult.Wet feed will help get extra water into his system and is more easily digested than dry.Save the larger amounts of hay for when your horse is out in cooler evening air and moving around.See Natural Feed Page for a good wet feed....or just add plenty of water to your present feed.Again, avoid "sweet" feeds in the heat.Feed smaller amounts more often.
9.Dry,brittle, cracked hooves are also a hot weather problem.Using hoof oil or coconut or olive oil on slightly damp hooves after their bath will help keep some moisture in the feet.Use a spray bootle to mist the hooves if they're dry before applying oil.The oil will then seal this moisture in.Putting oil on a dry foot is fine if they're healthy and pliable.For really hard ,dry feet, I find spritzing lightly with water first gets better moisturizing results.Otherwise, oil on a very hard, dry hoof tends to seal the moisture out. Use your favorite hoof dressing that's nice and oily.Cover the whole foot, top and bottom, including the coronary band.For a natural alternative you can use virgin olive oil, coconut oil or neem oil.All of these work well.Horses feet grow faster in the spring ,too.So, shorten the time between trims to help keep fraying and cracking at bay. Running your water tanks over will also add some moisture to the feet when they stand in it to drink.
10.White horses are especially prone to skin and eye problems (even cancer) from too much sun.Try to keep them out of the sun when UV rays are the strongest.If that's not possible, use a mask and fly sheet to cover sensitive parts and make sure they have shade in their pasture.Use sunscreen for white faced horses that burn and peel.Try calendula and aloe ointment or gel to help heal and soothe tender, flaking, sunburnt skin.
I'm sure I've left some things out ! I'll add on as they come up...so check back occassionally or feel free to email with questions....Remember to take care of yourself in the heat,too....Keeping the horses cool is hard work !