Are Your Horses Ready for a Sizzling Summer?

As summer quickly approaches, ensuring your horses are well-prepared to handle the heat and humidity is crucial. From hydration to hoof care, taking a few extra steps can make all the difference in keeping your horse happy and healthy. Here’s a guide to preparing your horses for the sizzling summer months.

1. Hydration Is Key

Just like us, horses need to stay hydrated, especially when it’s hot outside. Ensure your horse always has access to clean, fresh water. On average, a horse drinks 5 to 10 gallons of water per day, but this amount can double during hot weather.

Consider adding electrolytes such as Gatorade to their water to encourage drinking. Electrolytes in their feed can help replace minerals lost through sweating and can encourage your horse to drink more water, thus preventing dehydration.

2. Provide Shade and Shelter

Having a cool, shaded area where your horse can escape the sun is vital. Whether it’s a run-in shed or a shaded paddock, providing shelter helps prevent overheating.

Whenever possible, use fans or misting systems in barns and stalls to help keep the environment even cooler. This added ventilation can make a significant difference in maintaining a comfortable temperature for your horse.

3. Adjust Feeding Schedules

Feeding your horse during the cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or late evening, can help them digest their food more comfortably. Avoid heavy feeding during the peak heat hours to prevent discomfort and potential heat stress.

During the summer, you may need to adjust the feeding regimen. Opt for feeds that are high in fiber and low in starch. Fibrous feeds are easier to digest and produce less internal heat, which is beneficial during the summer months.

4. Regular Grooming

Regular grooming helps remove sweat and dirt, allowing your horse’s skin to breathe. It also gives you a chance to check for any signs of skin irritation or heat stress.

Pay extra attention to pest control during this time of the year, as fly and insect numbers increase. Use fly sprays and consider fly masks/sheets to protect your horse from bites and irritation. Controlling insects can also help reduce problems in horses with insect allergies. 

Sunburn can be a significant problem for horses with pink skin on their faces or body. Consider keeping these horses inside during the day with turnout at night. Another option is to apply sunscreen (zinc oxide) daily to protect the skin. 

5. Hoof Care

The hot, humid weather can affect your horse’s hooves. Regular hoof care is essential to prevent issues like cracks or infections. Both overly dry and wet conditions can cause problems, but regular cleaning and inspection can help manage this balance.

By maintaining a consistent hoof care routine, you can prevent common summer-related hoof issues and keep your horse comfortable.

Monitor Your Horse Closely

Keep a close eye on your horse for any signs of heat stress or dehydration. Common symptoms include excessive sweating, or no sweating (when the other horses are sweaty), lethargy, rapid breathing, or an elevated heart rate.

If you suspect your horse is suffering from heat stress, move them to a shaded area, offer cool water, and consult your veterinarian immediately.

By taking these steps, you can ensure that your horse remains comfortable, healthy, and happy throughout the hot months. Remember, a little extra care goes a long way in making sure our equine friends thrive during the summer. Happy riding!

This column is sponsored by Polk Equine, and the opinions expressed herein may not reflect those of CFAN or of its advertisers.

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.  She specializes in equine medicine.

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