As the temperature increases during summer in the UK, it can become a challenging season for horse owners. Making sure your horse is cool and comfortable should be a top priority. Therefore, it's crucial to take necessary measures to ensure your horse is well cared for during this time.
Here at Paddock Blade UK, we are passionate about ensuring horses are well-cared for and happy. That’s why we have listed some essential tips on how to keep your horse cool during the summer. From preparing their barns to ensuring they stay hydrated, get ready to equip yourself with the knowledge and expertise needed to keep your horse cool and content during the hottest months of the year. We hope you find it useful!
Hydration Is Key
One of the most important and obvious steps is to keep your horse hydrated, you may want to also consider adding electrolytes to their water or feed to help replace any loss of fluids during sweating. Regularly check and clean their water buckets, troughs, and automatic waterers to ensure there is a consistent fresh supply of water.
A 500kg horse can drink between 20-30 litres of water per day and this can increase to up to 50-60 litres per day in hot weather, so it is essential to ensure your horse has access to fresh and clean water at all times.
If you work between 11 am - 2 pm, it is a good idea to change your work schedule to a cooler part of the day, especially when temperatures are reaching the mid to late twenties. A good time to work would be early in the morning or late afternoon, it is best to let your horse rest in the shade when the sun is high in the sky. If for any reason you cannot change the schedule, just lighten the workload and keep them hydrated and shaded when possible.
It is important to consider that the hot weather may affect your horse’s grazing, the heat will dry out the grass and turn it into hay. This may decrease nutritional value, meaning your horse may require a low-calorie balancer or vitamin/mineral supplement. Horses in medium-hard work may need additional calories anyway.
Adjust Feeding Schedules
Horses may lose their appetite and eat less during the hot weather, so consider adjusting your feeding schedule accordingly. Offer smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day, and feed may be a better option during the cooler parts of the day.
Regular grooming can help keep your horse's coat clean and healthy, reducing the risk of heat stress. Consider clipping your horse's coat, making it shorter to help them stay cool and comfortable in hot weather.
Flies and other insects can be a real nuisance during the summer months, and they can also transmit diseases. Minimise the risk of your horse contracting any illnesses by using fly sprays, fly masks, and other protective gear to help keep your horse comfortable and healthy.
Taking care of your horse’s living area during the summer months is also something you will need to consider. Here are some tips to help you maintain your horse’s living conditions ready for the summer:
Shade and Ventilation:
Ensure your horse's shelter has adequate ventilation to allow for proper air circulation. Consider installing fans or misting systems to help keep the barn cool. You can also use shade cloths or blankets to cover their stalls to protect them from direct sunlight.
Clean stables are essential to prevent the buildup of ammonia and other harmful gases that can cause respiratory problems in horses. Regular cleaning of stalls and barn aisles helps to keep the air fresh and clean.
Monitor Feed and Hay:
High temperatures and humidity can cause mould and bacterial growth in hay and feed. Make sure to store hay and feed in a dry, well-ventilated area to prevent spoilage.
In certain circumstances, your horse may have a problem with overheating. We have listed some information below on what to look out for if you think your horse has overheated and what actions you should take.
Identifying signs of heat-related illness
Recognising when your horse may be struggling in the heat, and taking the appropriate action, is vital in maintaining their health and welfare, especially in very hot or humid conditions. When the horse’s internal body temperature gets too high serious heat-related conditions can occur.
These conditions can include,
Dehydration can occur when a horse loses more water (for example lost in sweat, breath, urine and droppings) than it takes in, below are some signs of dehydration in a horse:
- Reduced urination
- Very dry droppings
- Dry skin and mouth with thick saliva
- Dark urine
- Gums that are dark in colour - become redder rather than the healthy pink
Relying on a single symptom to determine if a horse is dehydrated is not sufficient. The presence of multiple signs increases the likelihood of dehydration and indicates a higher degree of severity.
Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke
Heat exhaustion is a serious condition and can occur if your horse is exposed/exercised in very hot or humid conditions for long periods and is often also suffering from dehydration.
Signs of heat exhaustion may be similar to dehydration symptoms and also include:
- Decreased appetite and thirst
- Muscle spasms
- Nostril flaring
- Fast, shallow breathing (panting)
- An irregular heartbeat
- Decreased appetite and thirst
What actions to take if your horse does get heat stress
If your horse is showing signs of heat-related illness or you think your horse may be dehydrated, it is best to speak with your vet immediately and seek professional advice.
Move your horse into the shade and provide water to encourage them to drink. Start to cool the horse by continuously applying cold water in the form of flannels all over the horse’s body until help arrives.
By following these tips, you can help ensure your horse stays healthy and comfortable during the summer months. Remember to keep an eye on your horse's behaviour, as excessive sweating, lethargy, or other signs of distress could indicate a heat-related issue.
With a little preparation and precautions, you and your horse can enjoy the UK summer season without any worries.