Your horse's health may be more at risk in oppressive heat than excessive cold. As heat and humidity begin to crank up follow these tips to keep your horse happy and healthy. Use this formula to determine if it is safe to work your horse:
Temperature (degrees F) + Humidity (%) – Wind speed (MPH.)
Example: 90 (degrees) + 70 (percent) – 12 (MPH) = 148
If the result is close to, or above 150, too much work could put your horse's health in jeopardy. Learn how to monitor your horse's heart and respiration rates. Also become familiar with his normal sweating pattern.
The most important element of equine health in hot weather is plenty of clean, cool water. No matter what type of watering system you use check it at least once daily. Automatic waters can quit, water lines break, horses sometimes confuse their water bucket with the manure bucket, and playful horses knock over bars and tanks leaving everyone without water.
If you horse goes off his feed, the first thing to check is the quality of the water. There are three things you need to check when evaluating your horse's water supply:
- Quantity – is the bucket or barrel full?
- Smell – does the water smell clean?
- Taste – If the water passes the smell test, go ahead and dip your finger in the water and taste it. If you do not like it either will your horse.
Flavor the Water
A trick used by horse owners / trainers who haul frequently is using flavored water. When your horse drinks water at home flavored with Gatorade, apple juice, or Kool-Aid – you can usually get them to drink any potable water. For double duty from the water bucket, add either apple or orange flavored electrolytes. This encourages your horse to drink more and keeps them balanced.
Sometimes a horse's muzzle will peel and look dry and sore from sunburn; other times it can be improved by balancing their micro-nutrient intake. Use sunscreen and try putting a soft block of trace minerals in your horse's feeder to see if the situation improves.
Horses come with varying degrees of sensitivity to insects. The menu of options to protect your horse against biting and disease- carrying insects range from the new pour-on topicals that last for two weeks to stall confinement in the most different cases.
The only way to determine the best approach for your horse is through trial and error. Be careful not to overuse fly sprays and do not let a residue build up on your horse's coat. Some horses can develop chemical burns from layers of fly spray.
Fly sheets vary widely in design and material. Choose a fit that will not rub your horse and provides adequate air flow. Do not leave fly sheets on for days at a time. Use them during the day or overnight, whichever best protects your horse from sun and insects. Rinse fly sheets regularly to keep your horse comfortable and lengthened the life of the sheet.
If your horse develops any of these conditions, take action; properly diagnose and treat the problem immediately.
- Hives or welts
- Hair loss
- Dried sweat on their coat
- Watery eyes
- Unexplained weight loss
Horses require more frequent grooming in hot, humid months to keep their skin and coat healthy. Sweat builds up on the skin and horses are subject to rain rot, scratches, and fungal infections. Rinse your horse thoroughly to get the sweat out of their hair as well as to remove old fly spray from their skin.
Use particular care in hot weather to keep leg wraps, girths and saddle pads clean. Whenever possible use a separate cinch and pad for each horse.
Some horses do well turned out during the day if there is adequate shade available. Others do better out at night and stalled during the day. For gray horses or those with light skin and susceptible to sunburn, it is recommended to limit the time they are out during sunny hours.