The Florida summer heat makes things more challenging when caring for and exercising your horse. The same things that you worry about for yourself in the heat are the same things that you need to consider for your horse.
If you have a barn, airflow and ventilation are key. The more airflow there is, the cooler the stalls will be. Fans are a great way to keep air flowing. If your horses are kept in the pasture, then shade is key.
In either case, access to clean water is essential. Try to keep water buckets/troughs in the shade and make sure to clean them weekly so algae and dirt do not build up. Refreshing or changing the water daily will keep it cool and palatable.
Exercising in the heat is difficult, so the best times are early morning or early evening as the sun is setting. Pay close attention to your horse — if they seem sluggish, then do a light workout or skip it altogether. Hot weather isn’t the time to get your horse fit. Monitor your horse for sweating. If they are not sweating after exercise, it is a problem. Horses that don’t sweat are at risk of overheating and can die. Contact your veterinarian for advice. While there is no reason why horses stop sweating, there are supplements that may stimulate your horse to start sweating again. Horses that are excellent at sweating should be offered electrolyte water or supplements to replace what they have lost.
Signs of heat stress include:
- Excessive sweating for the level of exercise (or at rest)
- Increased heart and breathing rates or distress
- Dullness with sunken eyes or skin tent indicating dehydration
- Rectal temperature of more than 103F (More than 106F is heatstroke.)
- No urine production
If you think your horse may have heat stress, cool your horse with a water hose bath and then place them under fans in the shade. Evaporation is key so continually scrape off water to improve this. Offer them cool water to drink.
If your horse isn’t responding or if its temperature is indicative of heat stroke (106F) then contact your veterinarian immediately. Your veterinarian may administer intravenous fluids and electrolytes to your horse.
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 participating veterinarian at Polk Equine. Her expertise ranges from small and exotic creatures to large animals, and she specializes in equine medicine.