This is the continuation of 14 Tips on Avoiding Equine Heat Stress This Summer. We are rounding out the set of 14 tips on preventing overheated horses.
Summer days are well underway now and the heat has begun to wear on us. We can’t help but think this way, even though we have the privilege of being able to turn on a fan, dress in lighter clothes, take quick showers, and find air conditioning whenever we would like to. Too bad we can’t offer the same luxuries to our beloved horses. Or wait, can we? Though they’ll never be able to jump in a shower on a whim, there are definite actions we can take that will help prevent overheated horses and protect our beloved team from the worst of the summer heat.
- Sponge Baths
Since giving a horse too many actual baths (with soapy water) isn’t good for their coat or skin, sponge baths are a great way to help them keep cool in the sweltering summer and prevent overheated horses. After a ride or any exercise, sponge a horse’s face down to prevent fungal itch related hair loss. Also, be sure to use cold water and saturate the large blood vessels that reach inside the horse’s legs, under the belly and on the underneath of the neck. For the hottest days, or if you live in a humid climate, consider keeping a solution of 50/50 water and rubbing alcohol to aid in equine cool down. Water needs to evaporate off the skin to be an effective method of cooling – the alcohol will help the evaporation and diffuse the heat better than water will… especially in humid regions.
In the summer heat, or after an intense exercise session, your horses may benefit from added supplements, such as electrolytes. Equusmagazine.com notes that, “Equine sweat contains high levels of electrolytes, much more than in human sweat. All those electrolytes in the sweat are lost to the body and must be replenished through diet. But if the sweating is prolonged, and the horse loses too much before he has a chance to replace them, he will start down the path of imbalances and depletion.” If properly delivered, electrolytes will help a horse recover from the salt that is lost in sweat while trying to keeps itself cool. They may also help trigger a horse’s thirst, making them self hydrate more willingly. This makes electrolytes a good option in preventing overheated horses in your stables.
- Coat Care
Equine coat care becomes even more important in the hot summer months, as grooming and coat care can be key tool in keeping your horses cool. Trimming your horses’ coats, manes, and tails will keep the heat down and your team comfortable. Also, daily coat care routines such as sunscreen will protect sensitive horse skin from sunburns and ultraviolet rays. Don’t forget the pink noses or any white hair areas on the body! These lighter areas are more susceptible to damage from the sun. You can even get equine sunscreen built into horse shampoos nowadays so there’s no reason to not include it in your horse grooming routine!
- Fly Spray and Blankets
As the season starts to warm up, pesky flies and other irritating insects start to show their ugly faces. Needless energy is used and a horse can get too hot, simply trying to avoid these nasty pests. Horse flies, aka Tabinidae, can be the worst! Their bites are painful and can cause swelling and disease. Help your horse be comfortable and avoid excessive damage when these heat-loving insects come to feast by using fly masks and other fly rugs and covers. If the flies get too overwhelming, consider stabling your horse in a clean, inside area with fans.
Barn Misting System
There are times when, no matter how well you’ve covered your basis, the dog days are just too hot. Fans and occasional sponge baths will only help so much and when you’re not around full-time, your options may seem limited. Fortunately, there is another alternative. Just as restaurant have misters on their patios for guest comfort, some horse lovers are beginning to install misters inside their barns and stables, specifically for their horses’ comfort. Misting fans, or other misting systems, help horses in dry climates keep cool by promoting heat to ‘evaporate’ off the skin. Misting systems for horse barns is an excellent option in preventing overheated horses and will give you peace of mind when you can’t be with your team 24/7.
- Pay Attention
You know your horses’ signs of distress, so pay attention. You’re the best judge of when intervention is needed. And not that while sweating may cause dehydration in your horse, overheated horses could also not show ‘enough’ sweat, which actually indicates an even bigger problem – anhidrosis. Without help, a horse that cannot sweat is at risk of equine heat stress or even heat stroke and death. They’ll need help cooling down with electrolytes, cool water, and fans. Taking these actions, while paying attention to stress signals, can help your overheated horses get through the worst of the heat.
Overheated horses can be found in any climate, during any time of the day, and at any age of the horse. Keep in mind that, much like with humans, older and younger horses, as well as any horse with an existing condition, may be more susceptible to equine heat stress. Follow the tips listed in these two articles and you’ll be taking the right steps to prevent overheated horses, and many other heat-related equine issues.
To read part one of this article, click here.
Have you ever had to help overheated horses? We’d love to hear your experience in the comments below!
Saratoga Stalls is a premium national supplier of horse and barn products. For more information on custom barns or horse stalls please contact Curtis Gardner, CEO, at (800) 918-6765.