Keeping horses cool in summer
by Andy Bryenton
Horses are hardy creatures, evolved to range the steppes of central Asia where the temperature can fluctuate wildly between seasons. However, the summer heat can prove problematic for equine wellbeing, especially in animals with sunburn-prone light colouration.
The University of Pennsylvania’s veterinary medicine centre recently published a study, which breaks down the most effective ways to keep your horse or pony cool in the summer months. While many of these top tips are common sense, such as rescheduling pasture turn-out times to the cool of dusk and dawn, providing shade trees and ample water in clean troughs, and reducing intensive exercise on hot days, others are innovative in their approach.
For example, cool water is a surefire way to give your horse some summer comfort, but misting with a fine spray of water has proven to be more effective than using a regular hose. Misting systems can be as complex as entire frames, which surround a horse, or as simple as hose attachments, but all kinds are incredibly effective at providing good coverage and allowing the fine droplets to act as a heat exchange medium.
Access to cool, fresh water is, of course, a must in the hot months, but horses also need electrolytes with their liquid refreshment. Consider the various sports drinks that are insisted upon by human athletes, and the need for such supplements becomes obvious.
While it seems counter-intuitive to desire salt in hot weather, a salt lick provided with water can often be combination horses not only benefit from but greatly enjoy.
Another technique is to mist salted water on to hay-based feed, once again supplementing this with plenty of water. Some horse owners in extreme temperatures will freeze whole ice cream containers of water to create giant ice cubes to place in horse troughs as a cooling treat.
Pale coloured horses will often require special sunscreen, available from vets, for their noses and the tips of their ears. A very light fly sheet can also be advantageous for horses in the grey to white spectrum. Finally, in-stable fans can prove invaluable on the hottest days, when being inside, provides the best shade. Modern technology has come to the aid of horse owners in this regard, with solar-powered fans now readily available and dropping in price. Pay attention to the comfort of your equine pets and companions during summer and be alert for signs of heat stress. If you’re concerned about dehydration, depression, lethargy or unwillingness to drink, contact a vet immediately.