Humid summer heat has finally descended on the Bluegrass, along with the rest of the country. We’ve gathered a few tips to help you keep your horse cool and avoid heat stress or heat stroke.
- Make clean, fresh water available at all times—this includes ensuring proper positioning of the trough in a field shared by several horses to prevent dominant horses from successfully chasing others away
- Hit the saddle early in the morning or later in the evening to stay out of the worst of the heat
Avoid working when both heat and humidity are unusually high
- Keep workouts as short as possible, and intersperse periods of walking, especially for horses who may not be in shape—fit horses can cool quicker than unfit ones
- If a horse begins to show signs of heat stress, stop riding immediately and allow him to drink his fill as you walk him out. Signs of heat stress include an elevated pulse, panting, elevated temperature, dull expression, and/or a horse who fails the “skin pinch test.” The skin pinch test, used to check for dehydration, involves pinching a section of skin where the hair is thinnest, such as an area around the muzzle or beneath the eye, and counting the seconds it takes the skin to flatten. If the skin takes two seconds or more to flatten, the horse is dehydrated.
- Ensure your horse has available salt. For horses who sweat excessively, you may consult with your veterinarian to see if an electrolyte supplement would be appropriate.
- Install a box fan or two in your horse’s stall (out of reach of his mouth) to keep air moving.
- Bathe or spray your horse, and remember to use a sweat scraper or towel to remove excess water. Water trapped in the coat can actually act as an insulator, preventing the horse from cooling off.
We can’t help you with the temperature, but we can help you with bathtime: we sell the Ultimate Water Hose, which is tough enough for barn or commercial use. Engineered to be flexible and kink-resistant, the Ultimate Water Hose is 50 feet long and carries a Limited Lifetime Warranty.
Equus has some great information on heat stress in horses, which you can access here.