It took summer a bit longer to make an appearance in the Denver metro area this year, but all we can say now is “Welcome”! There’s not much better than enjoying long, lazy summer days outside, but do you know that warm weather poses health and safety risks to horses? Just like with humans, the summer heat can take its toll on horses and other equines, and protecting your animals is an essential part of caring for them. What can you do to make sure your horse is safe during the summer? Read on.
Horses absorb moisture through their skin, and misting them can help them stay comfortable and cool. If you don’t have a misting system, you can spray your horse with cold water from a hose throughout the day. If you do have a misting system, be sure to use it.
Like every animal, horses need to stay hydrated. Be sure your horse always has access to plenty of fresh, cool water, keeping in mind that they can double their regular intake when it’s hot outside. Be sure to change the water frequently, too, so it doesn’t become stagnant and unhealthy.
Hay, hay, hay
Your horse needs energy from eating hay to help regulate body temperature and promote the cooling process. During the summer, grass growth slows down, and the pasture quality can be less than ideal, so be sure to provide an excellent caliber of hay.
Be aware of turnout times
Adjust your schedule so that your horse can be turned out during the coolest part of the day, say the morning or at night. When your horse is outside, make sure there is relief from the sun by way of plenty of shade. And, it seems obvious to note, but it’s worth it, as the sun moves, so does the shade. Be sure there are places for your horse to escape the heat throughout the day, and when your horse is in the barn, use fans to keep the air moving.
Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean your horse isn’t going to want to ride—and there’s no reason to stop. Try a shorter ride and inside or on a shady trail. Don’t forget a cool down at the end, and a cold shower to cool his body temperature would be appreciated!
Don’t get burned
Did you know that horses can get sunburns too? Well, they can, and it can blister and hurt just like it does when it happens to us. Apply a zinc oxide sunscreen to your four-legged companions—especially their noses– regularly. Also, a horse’s coat provides some protection from the sun’s damaging rays, so while a thick coat can hold heat and cause a challenge in the cooling process, you don’t want to clip the hair too close.
Know the signs
Heat stroke can cause serious problems for horses, and it can happen anytime whether a horse is exercising or in a hot stall or trailer. Signs of heat stroke include excessive sweating or lack of sweating, increased body temperature, elevated or erratic heart rate, lethargy, restlessness and dehydration. If your horse shows any of these signs or is in distress, move them to a cooler place and call your veterinarian immediately.
The summer breeze may make you feel fine, but always be aware of your horses, their surroundings and the weather before the fun begins. Have a safe summer from all of us at the Harmony Equine Center!
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