How to cope with a heatwave with horses

Jul 18, 2022 | Horse Health in the Stable

Summer is finally here. The summer sunshine is glorious but can be challenging for horses. Here are our top Bedmax tips for protecting your horse from the intense summer heat exhaustion:

Have a good supply of fresh drinking water.

If you don’t have an auto-fill water trough, make sure you put out much more water than usual. Horses can easily drink up to 50l of water a day, and this can more than double in hot weather.

Ride early in the morning or late in the evening.

Avoid exercising in the heat of the day, especially when the sun is at its hottest between 11am and 3pm. If you do have to ride during the day, keep exercise sessions short and give your horse more breaks to avoid overheating.

Give electrolytes to replace what is lost through sweating.

Electrolytes are responsible for keeping blood pressure and cell and nerve functions active so it’s important to replace these. Usually, these are replenished in a horse’s feed, but if they are sweating excessively, supplementary electrolytes can be administered. Make sure your horse is used to the taste of electrolytes as it can put them off drinking altogether if not, and if not, offer both electrolytes and plain water.

Hose with cool water.

Horses cool down by convection which is when heat is lost to the environment during water loss. Hosing down with cool water after exercise is the best way to lower your horse’s body temperature. Hosing throughout the day is a good way to keep your horse cool in the intense heat. It is important not to cover your horse with wet rugs as this actually has the opposite effect as it prevents the convection of heat.

Apply sunblock to sensitive areas such as the muzzle.

Horses can suffer sunburn too, especially those with pink skin. The muzzle is the most commonly affected area, but it is also important to check areas with little hair cover such as inside the thighs. Reapply multiple times a day if possible.

Make a makeshift shaded area.

If your horse’s field is lacking in shaded areas, it might be beneficial to create some artificial shade. Make sure it’s safe and secure so it doesn’t move, even if your horse rubs against it. If you feed hay or haylage in the field, pop under cover to encourage your horse into the shade.

There are lots of options, sometimes you might need to think outside the box and get creative!