Horses are remarkable for many things — one of them being their ability to adapt to weather extremes including the summertime heat and humidity of Central Florida. If you own a horse or horses, it is important to provide shelter — natural or constructed — so your horses are able to regulate their temperature by getting out of the sun’s heat.
A healthy horse has several mechanisms that allows them to regulate their temperature. These include sweating, a higher respiration rate, increased water consumption and a process called vasodilation. That is the dilation, or widening, of the blood vessels — particularly the vessels near the body surface.
Florida is hot and similar to people, horses can get overheated. Horses show signs with elevated heart and respiratory rates, increased sweating or no sweating at all, an elevated temperature (a horse’s natural temperature is 99 to 101 degrees Fahrenheit), and overall lethargy.
You can help your horse manage the heat by providing access to plenty of cool and clean water; replenish electrolyte loss with supplements; feed hay in shaded areas; rinse the sweat from your horse’s body daily; horses that have difficulty shedding or delayed shedding should be body clipped; and provide access to shade and shelter.
Shelter and shade is extremely important and can be offered in several varieties. These include shade trees, easy-to-assemble canopies placed in grazing areas or pastureland, simple open-sided structures using posts for support and a canvas or screen for a shade-providing roof, a run-in shed or barn with plenty of fans to provide cooling and boost ventilation.
Having a horse and loving it means making sure it has the resources available to beat the summer heat.
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.