Is Your Horse Ready for Summer?

horses in a field

Is Your Horse Ready for Summer?

Most riders love summer because it means we have more time to ride and care for our horses on long summer days, but as responsible equestrians, we should pay attention to their health during this season, as horses are sensitive to heat. Extreme summer heat and sunlight can be dangerous for horses resulting in dehydration, lethargy, and general malaise.

Planning For Summer

As soon as the sun shines it can be tempting to turn your horse out and breathe a sigh of relief! However, it’s important to plan ahead, introducing changes gradually for the health of your horse and to ensure the maintenance of your paddocks. Remember if we have a dry summer the grass growth may slow down so rotating smaller paddocks may be a good option to preserve the grass.

How to keep your horse healthy during the summer heat

Turnout Hours: As the weather improves it is time to think about changing your horse’s turnout hours. As the temperature heats up you might want to think about having your horse turned out at night rather than standing in the boiling hot sun. If you are lucky enough to have 24 hour grazing then make sure your horse has some shade available at all times. However, it’s important to plan ahead, introducing changes gradually for the health of your horse and to ensure the maintenance of your paddocks.

Grass: You may also need to keep a close eye on your horse as the extra grass during this time can cause unwanted weight gain. Remember, though, if we have a dry summer the grass growth may slow down so rotating smaller paddocks may be a good option to preserve the grass.

Shade: If your horse lives outdoors or must be outside during the daytime, provide shelter. A run-in shed is the best option, but trees can also provide cool shelter in hot weather. Also, don’t forget that white/grey horses are even more sensitive to the dangerous rays of the sun. Horses with pink around their muzzles or eyes can suffer from sunburn, so they need more attention in summer.

Hydration: For body maintenance, an average horse needs at least 5 gallons of water a day. This can easily double or triple when they’re working hard in hot weather, so make sure your horse is well-hydrated throughout summer. Keep several water sources available and refill the water buckets or troughs with fresh water every day. Also, troughs may be more likely to harbour algae, or the water turn stagnant when it is warm, so clean the troughs and buckets more often. If you are going out for a longer ride, consider the water needs of your horse.

Fresh Air: When the heat is too high, horses need more fresh air than normal. The air in the barn may need to be moved during summer, which can be achieved with fans to move the air, though pay attention to your horse’s safety when using the fans.

Minerals: When a horse sweats more, they need more minerals for their body maintenance. You can provide your horse with some salt blocks in the paddock.

Tack: As horses sweat more while exercising during the summer, you should use high-quality saddle pads and leg protection boots or wraps for their health. Make sure the saddle pad you use is made of 100% cotton to absorb the sweat and make sure material of the boots you use is breathable.

Fly Protection / Bugs: Mosquitos and flies are everywhere and annoy horses during the summer season. To keep mosquitos away, get rid of any standing, stagnant water in your horse’s stable or water trough. If you must keep your horse’s water standing in the barn or paddock, you can try adding some apple vinegar in it. To keep the flies from bothering your horse, muck out regularly, and keep paddocks poo picked on a daily basis if possible. Consider using a fly mask, fly spray/ gel or a fly rug.

Ragwort and Poisonous Plants: Now is the time when everything starts to grow – including those plants that we don’t want! Check paddocks daily and look out for the start of any poisonous plants including the dreaded Ragwort. Should any occur remove them from the root and dispose of them. Horses are more likely to eat such plants and weeds if the grazing is poor so make sure you keep a close eye on what is growing in your paddock and ensure your horse has sufficient forage.

In the Paddock

Fencing: Spring/Summer is a good time of year to make sure your paddock is safe and secure and do any maintenance jobs that are necessary. Get fencing sorted out before the ground really dries up and gets too hard to work with. Some horses can have more of a tendency to try and escape at night, so a safe, secure paddock is very important.

Buddy: Try to make sure your horse has company in his field or at least with a field mate next door. Horses are herd animals and are generally happier with their friends. Try to keep them in a good routine so they can adjust to the summer changes as easily as possible.

Exercising Your Horse

Ride or exercise your horse during the cooler times of the day – such as early in the morning or late afternoon- and let them rest when the sun is high. If you cannot change the schedule, just lighten the work.

 

Tips to Stay Cool While Riding

The following tips will help you to enjoy a comfortable summer day ride and not get overheated.

  • Use special clothing that repels the sun and retains moisture in the body. It sounds strange, but long-sleeve sweatshirts made of special material make you feel more comfortable while riding than sleeveless shirts.
  • Retain moisture in the body and avoid overheating by choosing the right foods. Water-rich foods, such as strawberries, watermelons, or cucumbers, move more easily through your digestive system, allowing you to remain hydrated for a long time. At the same time, fatty foods or rich in complex carbohydrates will have the opposite effect. Your body is forced to heat up to digest this food and you will accordingly feel worse.
  • Drink plenty of water while riding. Keep a thermos of ice-cold water on hand.
  • Take along a cool bag in which to put a T-shirt and socks. If you feel worse, chilled clothing is a good solution. If you feel that you are on the verge of heatstroke, immediately seek help. A cooling blanket may be suitable as first aid.

 

Cool Your Horse Down

Your horse needs to be cooled after exercise or riding on any day, and especially on a hot day. Improper cooling or ignoring this can lead to serious consequences and complications.

  • The last ten minutes of training with your horse should be calm. Let them walk and restore their breath.
  • Give your horse as much water as they need. Let them drink until they quench their thirst. Make sure that the water temperature is not too high or low. Ideal – cool water, comfortable for a long drinking.
  • Use a horse cooling sponge, soak it in water and squeeze it over your horse. Keep repeating this procedure until the water flowing off your horse ceases to be hot. It is best if you have access to running water and you can shower your horse from the hose.
  • Do not forget about scraping. Special ridges help distribute moisture and allow water to reach your horse’s skin. Even when you pour cold water on your horse’s back it manages to warm up to the stomach. Scrape this water off your horse and add cold again. This process speeds up the cooling of the animal.
  • Walk your horse in a cool, shady area,
  • Finally, enjoy the long summer days and the extra time it allows you to spend with your horse.

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