Protecting Horses from the Heat
The Florida heat this time of year can be brutal, especially for horses — be they at Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club or elsewhere. The first rule of thumb is always providing fresh, clean and cool water to prevent dehydration. If your horse is not drinking too much water, it is a good idea to hang a salt lick that he or she can easily access or to provide a separate water source that contains electrolytes. But water is certainly not the only thing to be mindful of when it comes to protecting these precious creatures from the heat.
Cooling Stalls and Providing Shade
As temperatures continue to rise, you’ll need to update your horse’s routine, according to his or her environment.
If the horse lives outside, shade is a must. A run-in shed with good ventilation is your best investment, but trees that provide ample shade will work just as well, as long as you are conscious of the movement of the sun throughout the day. If a horse is kept in a stall, equip the stall and barn aisles with fans to keep hot air moving. But keep cords and fans out of the horse’s reach!
When it’s time for turnout, choose a cooler part of the day or consider nighttime, if possible. And remember, shade is just as important during a horse’s turnout as it is for a horse that is outdoors 24/7.
Summertime Riding and Exercising
Riding or exercising a horse is vital, but within the limits of the summertime heat. Keep the ride short and lighten the horse’s work, and try to choose a cooler part of the day — not in the afternoon or early evening — to complete this exercise, as humidity makes it difficult for horses to breathe.
When your horse is finished exercising, allow him or her to properly cool down before being fed grain. Choosing the cooler parts of the day for exercise will ensure that the horse is consistently fed during cooler parts of the day, creating a consistent schedule and preventing equine colic.
Remember, horses can only cool down when sweat evaporates from their skin. You can help your horse cool off by hosing him or her and removing any excess water.
Horses Experiencing Heat Stress
Despite your efforts, your horse may experience heat stress. It’s important not to panic, but rather, recognize the signs:
- Increased respiration rate
- “Blowing” or flaring of nostrils
- Labored breathing
- Excessive sweating or not sweating at all
- Increased heart rate and temperature
If your horse experiences one or more of these symptoms, move him or her out of direct sunlight and take the tack off immediately before hosing the horse down until he or she feels cool to the touch. Then, offer your horse fresh, cool water — possibly mixed with electrolytes.
On the other hand, if your horse is not sweating or has irregular sweat patterns, he or she may have an underlying endocrine issue. If that’s the case, consult the vet right away.
While horses cannot articulate their feelings of discomfort, Golden Ocala has highly experienced equine caregivers that can help you keep your horse happy and healthy. Call us at (352) 629-6229.