July 17, 2011The sun is high and hot, the humidity is up and it is hard to imagine how you can possibly keep a horse cool when you can cook an egg on the barn floor. It is very fortunate the horses are naturally equipped to stay cool in the heat with plenty of blood circulating just under the skin. Owners and Leasees simply have to implement good summer management and exercise practices to help keep the horse`s system in excellent shape. In watching a friend`s horse succumb to the heat this past week, I have been even more aware and implementing stricter safety practices in making sure my horses will survive our Arizona summer with no ill effects.
Please provide plenty of fresh water and make sure it is clean and always available. A dry water bucket is the quickest route to dehydration and heat issues. Every other day, I thoroughly wash out all of the water buckets as standing warm water can cause bacteria and algae contributing to possible illness.
You can keep your horse in during the day and during the hottest time of the year if your barn or stable area has good ventilation and fans. I purchased an inexpensive misting system and installed down the middle of the stable areas. It really does help to drop the temperature. If you do use a fan, please make sure that all cords are well out of horse`s reach. You can also place a fan in the aisle way or fasten one to the outside of your horse`s stall to keep the barn or stall area from getting too stuffy. Make sure that the fan is approved for use in hazardous areas where hay, straw, shavings, and dust are present. If you don`t keep your horse in during the summer, make sure that there is always someplace shaded to rest either a run-in shed or big tree.
Get your horse in shape. A horse in good physical condition is less likely to overheat quickly. Excess fat on your horse will make it more difficult for him to move so he will have to use more energy which in turn uses more internal heat. So try to keep your horses fit over the summer even if they are not being exercised as much. Change your riding schedule for the summer. Try to ride early in the morning or late in the evenings when the sun is low and the temperature is a bit cooler.
Reduce the amount of tack you ride in during your ride. Use thinner saddle pads, a bareback pad, and only put on boots when necessary. Avoid riding unfit horses when the temperature and humidity levels are high. Loosen your girth or cinch when you are done riding and make sure to give your horse a long walk to cool him down. You can offer him some water after a hard ride; nothing ice cold and do not let him gulp the water. A cool bath can be given to your horse and often highly appreciated after a hot ride. Make sure that his breathing, heart rate and temperature have returned to normal levels before you turn him out or put him back into his stall.
Learn the tell-tale signs of heat stress-raised temperatures, elevated respiratory and heart rate, profuse sweating, lethargy, and discolored mucus membranes. If your horse starts showing signs of heat stress, stop what you are doing and try to cool him down as quickly as possible. If you are riding, please stop the workout, dismount, and untack your horse. Try giving him a cool bath, offer him some water, and then stand him in the shade. If you have a fan around, plug it in, and stand him in the breeze. Contact your vet immediately if the symptoms get worse or do not improve within 15 minutes.
Just using these simple safety instructions can help make sure that we all survive our summer. Any questions, please feel free to contact me.