The summer heat can really take a toll horses! When temperatures start rising above 100 degrees, you have to take extra care to make sure your horses are comfortable. Whether you have just adopted a horse or have had one (or more) for years, this article will lay out 10 ways to keep your horse healthy in the summer!
We recommend the following 10 items to keep your horse healthy this summer:
- Appropriate Feed
- Cooling system
- Less Tack
- Extra Bedding
- Fly control
Let’s take a look at each of these in more detail.
Your horse’s feed needs change during the summer. Feed like alfalfa, oats, and corn produce more heat than grass hay or pasture; so cut back or cut out these foods in favor of grass hay and pasture grazing. Letting your horse roam the pasture will also help it get more water. Horses enjoy snacking on freshly watered grass! You can also wet down your horse’s hay or even soak hay or feed before feeding for extra hydration.
Check feed regularly, as sweet feed can get moldy in the heat, and you never want your horse to eat bad feed! Also, clean out feed buckets often so they don’t attract flies.
Your horse will obviously need plenty of H2O during the hot summer months. The total amount of water within a horse’s body is about 60% of their body weight—so they need, on average, 10 to 15 gallons of water during hot Arizona summer days. Consider providing an extra bucket of water in addition to a water trough. And remember to clean the trough at least once per week; they tend to get dirty more quickly in hotter temperatures.
Other options to keep your horse cool: take your horse for a swim if you live near a pond or lake, or use a hose to water them down. Your horse will look forward to a daily shower and will get extra exercise when going for a short swim.
Salt licks and electrolytes are a great addition to your horse’s regular diet, especially in the summer. Both will help to replace minerals and electrolytes lost while sweating, and they also encourage increased water consumption. Place a salt lick in a holder near feed and water, add electrolytes to one of the horse’s water supplies, and your horse will be one happy camper!
Shade is an absolute necessity during the summer. A shaded area can offer a temperature drop of at least 10 degrees—a big help when it’s 110 degrees (or more) out there! If you don’t already have lots of shaded areas for your horses, you may want to build something from scratch, or move your horse into a barn or mare motel during the hottest part of the day.
A misting system is a great way to keep your horse cool in the summer. Get one here for only $16.99! To make it even more effective, place a large fan outside the stall so it can increase air flow on your horse. These two items will work together to make your horse cool and comfortable. Your horse will thank you!
It’s important to keep your horse physically fit, especially during the summertime. An overweight horse produces more heat. Exercise your horse early in the morning, before 10 AM. “Horsing around” in the heat of the afternoon will stress even the fittest horse!
When you prepare your horse for a ride or a trip in the summertime, use less tack. Your horse needs less padding under the saddle and light leg boots, or better yet, cooling leg boots! When traveling, avoid blanketing your horse. A lighter load means a cooler, happier horse.
Soft, deep bedding is a must this time of year. The ground can be hard and hot here in Arizona, especially in the summer. Deep wood shavings in a cool, shady spot allow your horse to lie down and rest comfortably.
1 Gallon fly spray $62
Horses, plus manure and sweat, equals annoying pests! Flies are at their worst during the summer. A fly mask will become your horse’s best friend. Make sure the one you choose is a good fit to prevent irritation and sores. You may want to try a couple of different masks to see which works best for your horse.
And you may want to research some manure disposal services: for a nominal fee, you can get someone to haul it away and give to gardeners and landscape companies! This will eliminate flies’ favorite breeding grounds.
Did you know horses can get sunburned just like you can? White horses especially, or those with white socks and blazes, pink noses, or hairless patches are more vulnerable to the sun’s rays. A fly sheet can help prevent sunburn, while keeping flies away at the same time! In addition, applying sunscreen to areas where the skin is exposed will help prevent sunburns. And of course, providing plenty of shade and encouraging your horse to stay under that shade during the day is even better!
Bonus: Signs of Heat Stress
Sometimes, even when you’ve done everything you can to prevent it, heat stress happens. Heat stress can be deadly, so if your horse doesn’t improve within a few minutes of your home treatments, call the vet.
Here are a few symptoms to help you identify heat stress, plus tips to treat them:
- Profuse sweating over the entire body, or no sweating whatsoever.
- Behavior changes: Lethargy, no interest in food, stumbling.
- Elevated temperature: If you suspect heat stress, check your horse’s temperature. Anything above 105 degrees means your horse is at risk.
- Shallow breathing (over 40 or 50 breaths per minute)