Heatwave: Summer Horse Care Tips
Our British summer weather isn't usually the sunniest or warmest. So when the sun and heat does make an appearance, it's important to double check that your horse has all the essentials to be happy and healthy over the heatwave. Here are some of our summer horse care tips to get you started.
Horses can drink up to 10 gallons (approx 45 litres) per day so make sure there is plenty of fresh clean water when they are in the field or the stable. Check their water regularly and clear it of any debris that could block automatic filling systems or could contaminate the water. Avoid having stagnant water around the yard as this can attract flies and remember to give your buckets and troughs a good scrub to prevent a build up of algae that appears quickly in warmer weather. Remember to keep yourself hydrated too! Perhaps leave a supply of bottled water down the yard just in case.
Check your horse with adequate shade in their field such as a shelter or trees. This gives them somewhere to escape out of the sun's rays and cool down throughout the day. Another option is to turn out at cooler times of the day if possible. Also if you are out and about in the field or around the yard consider wearing a hat and sunglasses for your own protection.
There are various ways to protect your horse from the sun, from summer sheets to keep off those UV rays to sun creams. If you have a horse with a pink nose, white markings on their face or white socks they may be more likely to get sunburn. Apply sun cream on these sensitive areas before turning them out to prevent them getting sore. Don't forget to apply sun cream to yourself as well!
Lovely weather brings out the flies and bugs which can be irritating and stressful your horse. Stock up on your fly protection so you are always ready. Fly repellent is available as sprays, creams, gels and even wipes that can be applied to your horse to keep off the worst of the flies. As part of your daily routine be sure to check your horse for wounds, fly bites, and things like ticks and botfly eggs that can attach themselves. Favourite places for flies to hang out is around your horse's eyes and inside your horse's ears. The best way to prevent flies getting to these places is by using a fly mask with ears, alongside suitable fly repellents. Also a good tip is to have a spare fly mask at the ready, in case your horse decides to lose one in the field!
Summer grooming means doing all the usual daily tasks, such as picking out hooves, brushing coats free from dirt and dust, keeping manes and tails tangle free, checking eyes etc. However in the summer you will be also be washing your horse down after riding to remove the sweat from their coats; get the clean sponges and scrapers at the ready. It is also a great time to give your horse a really good bath, as they can dry off quickly in the warmer weather. Perhaps take the opportunity to give your brushes a good wash too. If your horse has a longer coat (such as those with Cushings disease) then clipping the hair to a reasonable length can help keep them cool.
Hooves can become dry and even crack in the summer. Keep hooves in good condition by firstly making sure your horse has the correct diet. Then there are many hoof care products available that will help to protect hooves from the elements and add moisture and nourishment during dry weather. If you have any concerns about your horses feet then contact your farrier or vet for further advice.
When the weather is very warm avoid riding around the middle of the day or when the heat is at it's highest. Aim for morning and evening rides when the temperatures are a little cooler. Make sure you and your horse are well hydrated before you head out. Wear cooler clothes and avoid dark colours. Choose lighter weight jodhpurs and perhaps jodhpurs boots and half chaps rather than long riding boots. Don't over exert your horse and make sure you allow for plenty of walking along your ride. If possible choose a route with shady areas.
Provide free access to a salt lick for your horse in the stable or field. In the heat you horse will be sweating more and having a salt lick available allows them to replace the salts they are missing.
Keep an eye on the condition of your pasture during the summer. Grass can die off in the heat, so you may need to offer more forage in their diet. Also keep an eye out for weeds and plants that you would rather not have growing in your horse's field - especially . Try to keep your fields as clear as possible of horse poo too, as this attracts more flies.
Warmer weather gives a good opportunity thoroughly clean the stable. This might involve clearing out deep litter bedding, lifting rubber matting and washing out with stable disinfectant. The heat will help it to dry out quickly.
Finally, be on watch for heat stroke whether your horse is out in the field or in the stable. Signs to look out for include high temperature, high or erratic heart beat, restlessness or lethargy, excess sweating, panting, stumbling or spasms. Also be on the look out for any changes in their normal behaviour. If you think your horse has heat stroke, make sure they are in a cool area away from the sun, have a supply of water and call a vet immediately.
If you have any concerns about your horse's health then seek advice from your vet or equine nutritionist.
Do you have any handy summer horse care tips?