Horses are wonderful animals and the proper care is absolutely necessary to keep them healthy, especially during summer. If you wish your friend to stay with you for years to come, adding some extra care will certainly be of great help.
Make water available
Use plenty of water. Put buckets of water near the horse and make sure it is always cool and fresh because if it gets warm it won’t help your horse decrease his body temperature. Check frequently and replace it if there are insects or it got warm. Place one bucket with electrolytes in order to avoid dehydration and help them recover from excess sweating.
Think about setting a misting system in a barn which will automatically sprinkle water in intervals of time you set. It will create a pleasant surrounding and cool down the air so it is pleasant to spend time in it. The chances of overheating and dehydration will decrease.
Hosing down a horse is an option to decrease his body temperature. However, there are opposite opinions about it, some say that it can be harmful, some that it is the greatest way. The best thing is to monitor reactions, heart rate and temperature of your horse.
If you see that he feels good, then do it regularly. Make sure you scrape the water off. Don’t wait to evaporate, speed up the process. The water you scrape in the beginning will be warm, but as soon as the water your scrape is cold, that should be enough.
Set good ventilation system
A barn with good air circulation is of great importance. Strategically placed fans will maintain the temperature lower than outside. Most barns have ceiling fans, but even if that is a big investment for you, there are always ways to improvise.
Fans will also keep the water cooler since exposure to the heat can cause growing algae which can be harmful to your horse and won’t refresh a horse as it should.
Make sure the fans are moving the hot air out of the barn and not in it and always keep the cables protected and out of the reach. Take all precautions to preserve the health of your horse and you will avoid potentially risky situations.
Create good schedule
Organize all activities during hours with less sun in order to protect your horse from sunburns, particularly if your horse is white. Their skin is a little bit more sensitive.
Putting a fly scrim on a horse can be a good protection but do your best to avoid being outside during hours when harmful rays are the strongest. Besides, it is wise to split tasks into several sessions, so there is plenty of time for a horse to rest and cool down.
This particularly applies when humidity level goes up since the quality of the air horse is breathing decreases. Don’t burden your horse with plenty of activities, since lots of their energy goes to keeping their metabolism balanced.
Perform all activities as early in the morning as possible and in the evenings. Avoid doing any activities during sun peak hours. Always finish the activities with bathing. This way, the rest afterward will be complete and the energy will soon be recovered.
Watch for signs of dehydration
In cases when a horse is unable to cool himself down by sweating, a life-threatening condition may develop. In order to prevent this from happening, keep a close eye on the temperature of the horse. Signs of dehydration to watch for are:
- Temperature higher than 104°F
- Lack or excessive sweating
- High heart rate that lasts for longer period of time
- High respiration rate (above 40, normal rate is from 8-12 breaths per minute)
- Gums become discolored or dark
If you notice any of these signs or all of them, call the veterinarian immediately, but in the meantime do what you can to help him. You can do that by adding ice to the water, it will speed the cooling process, move him to the shade, use as much water as you can to cool him, scrape the water and repeat as many times as necessary until you see signs of improvement.
Applying electrolyte paste on the overheated horse may stress him even more. This can help in the less critical situations. However, you can offer dissolved electrolytes in a bucket of water, but don’t let it be the only source of water.
Make both clean water and the one with electrolytes available. If you have cold packs available, press it to the main blood vessels that supply the brain with blood. This way, you will prevent any possible damage since the brain is at the highest risk.
Take some time for grooming
Grooming is not only important for great appearance; it also contributes to the horse’s health. Clipping a horse will take off unnecessary hair and let his skin breath and take off all the extra warmth.
It should be performed at least every other week. However, make sure you don’t take off all since hair protects a horse from harmful sunrays.
Frequent sponge baths will increase the comfort of your horse since it will help him avoid various skin conditions and keep insects away.
This way the horse will be comfortable and not get overheated. Some expert advice to mix alcohol and water 50:50, it will aid the sweating process. Just remember not to touch its face with it. There are special summer shampoos that contain sunscreen – it may help prevent sunburn.
Protecting your horse from insects may seem to be small, but it will help your horse preserve his energy for more important things.
Fly masks and various sprays that are available on the market can keep these pests away. Every time a horse flics a tail to chase away bugs is taking precious energy from him. Do everything in your power to maintain his energy levels high and remove all the energy thieves.
Additionally, make sure your horse is eating properly. Overweight horses are at a greater risk to be affected by heat. A balanced diet will help him be active.
The shape of the horse, the exercises that you perform with him, fresh water and food, plenty of bathing, lots of shade and organizing activities well are all important factors that add up to the overall condition of your horse and his ability to cope with the heat. The more time and love you invest in your friend, he will serve you better and be in better health.