How to Keep Your Horse Cool in Hot Weather
Summer has now arrived (sort of)! Temperatures have yet to reach potentially troubling levels but a heatwave could strike at any time. We all get used to the generally temperate climate in the UK, but sometimes things can heat up a bit and it can feel decidedly tropical.
Just like people, horses often struggle and underperform in hot weather. It is important to be aware of the potential problems and to know how to keep your horse suitably cool and comfortable. It is also vital that you are able to act quickly and effectively if your horse does overheat.
Prevention is always better than cure so you should make every effort to stop your horse from overheating in the first place. Always adjust your workouts and hacks to take account of the weather conditions. If possible, ride during the coolest hours of the day (early in the morning or later in the evening) and reduce the length and intensity of your work.
At top events, an assessment will now be made of the thermal load on horses. The Wet Bulb Globe Temperature Index () takes into account the temperature, humidity, light and wind to calculate a rating. If that rating is above 28, courses are reduced in length and severity. If the rating exceeds 33, the conditions will be deemed to be incompatible with safety.
Horses are at risk from the weather conditions whether they are competing or spending time in the field. Always ensure that your horse has access to shade and fresh water. Apply sunscreen to light coloured horses and to vulnerable areas of all horses. Muzzles and ears can be especially sensitive. Stock up from .
Don't forget your fly repellents too, as warmer weather brings out a range of pesky flies to attack your horse. Read for more information on prevent flies this summer.
If your horse looks or feels uncomfortable or listless, take their temperature. If this exceeds 40°C, your horse is at risk of heatstroke. Temperatures exceeding 42°C can be fatal. An overheating horse may not sweat as it could be so dehydrated that it is unable to. Overheating horses could appear agitated, unsteady or depressed. They may also exhibit signs of colic and their breathing will be inconsistent. An overheating horse could also have a weak pulse. If you spot any of these symptoms in your horse, act immediately.
Cooling Your Horse
It is crucial that you act quickly and decisively. In the first instance, pour cold water over your horse, concentrating on the principle muscle groups. Don’t just dribble water over your horse, use significant volumes! Then move your horse to a cooler area, preferably one that is exposed to the breeze and in shade. Don’t apply ice directly to your horse as this can cause thermal damage.
Keep your horse moving if possible as this will increase blood pressure and so minimise the risk of collapse.
You may have your own special tricks for cooling your horse. If you do, then let us know so we are able to pass these on to help other equestrians!