Keeping Horses Cool in Hot WeatherBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · September 14, 2012
Hot weather can increase stress and cause health problems for horses. Follow these management tips to keep horses as comfortable as possible during periods of high temperatures.
- Turn horses out during late evening, night, and early morning hours to avoid the hottest part of the day. Provide shade with trees or run-in sheds.
- During the day, keep horses stalled and use fans, misting equipment, or natural breeze patterns to keep air moving and temperatures bearable. Be sure that fans are safely mounted and cords can’t be reached by horses.
- Think about getting lots of water into your horse. Provide plenty of fresh, cool water, even if this means emptying and refilling buckets or tanks frequently. Scrub tanks before they look dirty; algae and bacteria can give water an “off” taste even though the water isn’t visibly contaminated.
- Offer salt free-choice, either as loose salt or a salt block. Use electrolyte supplements if the horse is sweating freely. If electrolytes are added to drinking water, always offer plain water as well.
- Watch for sunburn, especially on white or light-colored areas where the coat is thin. Keep horses inside during peak sun hours and use masks or sunscreen when they are turned out.
- Adjust exercise demands according to the heat and humidity. Overheating can affect any horse but is especially common in older horses, obese animals, or horses that are out of condition. Obedient horses will work far longer than they should, even in extreme heat, and can become overheated before the rider is aware of a problem. Be aware of excessive sweating or labored breathing, and stop exercise periods before the horse shows distress. Cool the horse down after exercise by repeatedly hosing or sponging with cold water and then scraping the water out of the coat.
- For heavy-coated horses, such as those with Cushing’s disease, consider clipping as often as necessary through the year.
- Though summer is the most obvious time for heat-related issues, unexpected warm weather can contribute to overheating in any season, especially if horses are out of regular work and have long, thick coats. Before saddling up for a long trail ride on that freakishly warm winter day, think about ways to keep your horse from becoming overheated. Prevention is easier and safer than dealing with a horse suffering from heat issues.