There has been a lot of rain this summer in Central Florida and there’s a feeling it could be close to a record.
When it rains, humans have many ways to escape it — like ducking into a vehicle, a house, or an office building — but what about our grazing horses in the pasture? How does all the rain affect them? Should we let them roam freely in the rain?
The answer to the roaming question isn’t clear cut; it depends on a few factors — the physical condition of the horse, the personality of the horse, the landscape, shelter, and the severity of the weather.
Horses are resilient animals and do very well outdoors. If a horse is healthy, leaving it outdoors during a typical afternoon rainstorm likely won’t be a problem. Most horses don’t mind rainy and windy conditions. Horses have good senses and if you’ve provided accessible shelter, he or she will usually seek it out if needed.
In situations involving a less-than-healthy horse and severe weather, such as heavy lightning and conditions favoring tornadoes, providing a sturdy and safe shelter is advised. Keep in mind, though, that many barns are no match for gale-force winds and twisters. Depending on the shelter, a horse left to roam in a field during a severe wind storm could be better off than one secured to a stall in a weak barn. However, left outside during extreme wind, a horse also could be the victim of flying blunt-force debris which can cause injuries that range from minor to life threatening. This is why it is so important to secure items around your property if you have horses.
As for the direct effect of extreme rain and prolonged moisture on a horse, illnesses such as hoof and skin infections are always possible. These conditions can be treated with removal from the moisture, medications, special shampoos and topical treatments.
The rainy season will be over soon. Until then, I hope that you and your horse(s) stay dry and safe.
BIO: Dr. Katie Hennessy graduated from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine in 2008 with a degree in large animal health and equine medicine. She completed an advanced internship at The Equine Medical Center of Ocala and is currently the owner and practicing veterinarian at Polk Equine. Her expertise ranges from small and exotic creatures to large animals, specializing in equine medicine.