How to Keep a Horse Cool in Hot Weather
Summer is fast approaching and at last we are able to enjoy some hot weather. Although us humans love the heat and can keep ourselves cool, the same cannot be said for our pets, and this includes horses.
When the sun starts shining down on us again, horse owners need to be extra prepared to keep their horses cool. Here are our top tips you can use to do this:
1. Plan Ahead on Competition Days
If your horse is participating in any competitions, it is important that you plan ahead, even if the weather forecast for that day isn’t showing extreme heat. As you will be aware, the weather can change at a moment’s notice. Consider leaving as early as possible and heading down to the competition grounds to avoid travelling in the heat or getting stuck in traffic.
2. Keep the Horsebox or Barn Cool
Ensure that the horsebox and barn windows are kept open so that there is a constant flow of fresh, cooling air. Another great alternative is to use a good fan for cooling the horse down when it's stuck in a barn or stall during the heat. When you arrive at your destination, consider taking your horse out of the horsebox, especially if the horsebox is in the sun, as the horse will keep much cooler outside of the confined space in the sun. If your horsebox is going to remain in the shade, however, your horse will be fine remaining in it.
3. Provide Constant Access to Water
Your horse, just like you, needs water to survive. During the hot summer days, your horse, just like you, will need a lot more water than usual. You should ensure that your horse has a constant supply to fresh and plentiful water. In the horsebox, keep a water troth topped up and change it regularly. When outside of the horsebox, ensure that you know where the closest water source is and take your horse to it regularly.
4. Keep an Eye on the Herd
If you have a herd of horses, you should be keeping an eye on it to make sure that the weaker and older horses are not being dominated by the stronger and more able horses. Herd animals can be competitive, and it is not unheard of for horses to be chased away from shade or water by another horse. If you see this behaviour, immediately discourage it.
5. Provide Access to Shade
In extreme conditions, it is important that your horse(s) have access to shade which they can use as and when they want. Also, it is not a bad idea to give your horse(s) a good hosing down throughout the day to help cool their core body temperatures. Horses can quickly overheat; it is important to keep them cool. A common myth is that you cannot use cold water on a hot horse… this is simply untrue, you can and should hose your horse down with cold water.
Using cold water from a hose and running it over your horse’s chest, neck and lower legs can quickly help to cool your horse down; these areas have plenty of prominent blood vessels which can be rapidly cooled by the water and carry this cooled blood around your horse’s body.
6. Watch for Heat Stroke
If your horse appears unusually lethargic and unwilling to move around and drink water, this could be a sign of heat stroke. If you think that your horse may be suffering from an episode of heat stroke then you should let him rest in a cool, shaded area – a stable ideally – and pour cooled water over him. After an hour or two, the symptoms of heat stroke should pass, and your horse will be back to normal. If the symptoms carry on for longer than a couple of hours, then it you will need to contact your vet.
Now Go Cool That Horse!
Although we love the summer, the same can’t be said for our pets. Even though animals have ways to keep cool, domesticated pets regularly suffer from heat-related illnesses as they do not have access to the means of keeping cool outside of the natural environment. Whether you own horses, dogs or birds, it is important that you take the necessary steps to keep them cool in the hot weather and prevent heat-related complications from arising.
With a horse, simply keeping an eye on them and taking a few precautions is usually enough. With an overheating horse, it is simply a case of helping cool their bodies down by providing access to fresh, cold water and giving their bodies a hosing down in the shade.