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31 August 2017Read More
Summer can be a lovely time for horse-riding, but high temperatures carry health risks for your horse. Hot weather can lead to dehydration, lethargy, sunburn and stomach problems that may even include colic. What can you do to help avoid these hazards and keep your horse cool?
Your horse should always have access to fresh water, but don’t be tempted to make it icy cold – 20°C is about right.
Don’t forget the salts
When horses sweat, they’re losing salts as well as water, and they need to replace both to restore the fluid balance in the body. A mineral salt block may be enough to allow your horse to replace lost salts. Adding electrolytes to the horse’s water can also help, but many commercial electrolytes contain more sugar than salt! Make sure you get one with salt (sodium chloride) listed as the first ingredient. Always offer plain, fresh water alongside the water containing the electrolyte product.
Protect your horse from the sun
Horses can burn in sensitive places such as the eye area, and this increases their skin cancer risk. Make sure your horse always has access to enough shade in the hotter part of the day. Also consider applying sunblock to unpigmented areas of skin.
Choose cooler times of day
In really hot weather got out in the cooler early mornings and evenings to exercise your horse. If his stable is cool, why not keep him in during the day and turn him out at night? This will help keep your horse cool.
Keep an eye on feeding habits
The horse’s stomach secretes gastric acid continuously and their digestive health depends on getting plenty of fibrous food to mop it up. Warm weather is a potential colic risk not only because it can cause horses to lose their appetite, but also because it may affect the quality of the pasture available for grazing – they may have eaten all the grass. Make sure there’s enough hay or grass available and keep an eye out for any signs that your horse is losing interest in food.
Know the signs of heatstroke
Signs of heatstroke include an elevated heart rate, a high temperature, lethargy and excessive sweating (or lack of sweating). An overheated horse may also keep breathing hard in an attempt to cool down. Get to know your horse well and you will soon be able to tell if things are not quite right or if he is getting distressed. Always ask for professional help if you are worried – better safe than sorry.
Keep your horse cool effectively
All horses will benefit from effective cooling, no matter the type of competition or the level at which they are performing. This includes event horses, dressage horses, show jumpers, racehorses, polo ponies, endurance horses, driving horses, show horses and gymkhana ponies. Horses competing in temperatures of more than 26°C are less prone to heatstroke if they are cooled down quickly and effectively. The trick is to apply cold water, scrape it off and then re-apply while the horse is being walked around, which helps with respiratory rate recovery. It’s best to try and carry out the cooling and walking in the shade.