In Australia it is not uncommon to see extreme heat and humidity around the country. These conditions can be hard for some horses to adjust to, often causing declines in overall condition, performance and wellbeing.
As horse owners we want to help our horses maintain their overall health, continue to be able to perform and, most of all, be comfortable. Here are some helpful tips and important things to consider when it comes to caring for your horse during the hot and humid months.
Horses sweat like humans, via sweat glands throughout their skin. Sweating plays an important part in the self regulation of a horse’s body temperature with the evaporation of sweat on the horse’s coat having a cooling effect. If your horse is not sweating during hot or humid weather or if they are suffering from excessive sweating please contact your vet as these may be signs of an underlying health condition.
It is absolutely essential that your horse has access to plenty of fresh clean water. Check the water source (troughs, buckets and automatic waterers) at least daily to ensure they are full and working. Provide a number of water sources for your horse just in case they like to play in them and potentially knock over or empty one. If you have more than one horse in a paddock, supply multiple water sources, separate from each other, to allow everyone to get a drink (very important for more timid horses).
Heat stress is a dangerous and potentially life threatening condition in horses. Triggers for heat stress include extreme heat or humidity, poor air flow or ventilation and dehydration. Signs of heat stress in horses to be aware of include;
- Extreme sweating or no sweating at all
- Skin that is dry and hot
- Rapid heart rate (over 50 beats per minute)
- Increased respiratory rate (over 20 breaths per minute)
- Rectal temperature over 38 degrees celsius
If you notice any signs of heat stress in your horse contact your veterinarian immediately and do your best to cool them down.
Keep them cool
Some things you can do to keep your horse cool during hot weather include;
- Provide your horse with plenty of shade like a tree or shelter, so they can get out of the burning sun. Shaded areas that still allow a breeze to pass through are best.
- Ensure they always have fresh, clean and preferably cool water.
- Avoid exercising your horse during the heat of the day or during high humidity.
- Do not rug your horse with heavy rugs during hot weather as the fabric can impede the evaporation process. Lightweight mesh rugs are a better option during hot weather.
- Use fans to improve the air flow in stables or under shelters.
- Cool your horse down by hosing or sponging them off with cool water
Although the weather may be hot and humid you can still enjoy quality time with your horse by keeping these few things in mind.
Originally published in My Pet Magazine Issue 23, Spring/Summer 2021-2022.
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