Guest Author - Kim Wende
It's getting hotter and hotter with each passing day so make sure you check your horse for signs of heat stress. A horses body temperature is higher than ours therefore they get hotter faster than we do and are more susceptible to the effects of heat stress.
It's not just the temperature as you have to think about the heat index too. When a horse sweats it evaporates and carries the heat away from the body which cools them. When the heat index is high it is harder for horses to cool themselves because with high humidity the evaporation rate is reduced. When this happens the heat is removed at a lower rate causing them to retain more heat than if the air were dry.
Do you know what is normal for your horse's pulse, respiration and body temperature? If not, now would be a good time to check their vital signs and keep a record.
There are several things you can do to help your horse during the summer heat.
Give your horse a good probiotic to help with digestion. The gut is one of the first things that suffer in horses that stand out in the sun. A good probiotic supports the healthy bacteria in your horse's gut and keeps their digestive system working.
Salt is imperative for horses. I don't use salt blocks because their base is a bleached salt and they contain glues and binders. I only use loose salt because the blocks were designed for cows who have a rough tongue. A salt-hungry horse will try to chew off chunks which then frequently result in TMJ problems.
Many people want to add salt to their horses feed, but it is not a good idea. When you add regular salt to your horses feed it is an unbalanced profile and it can throw off their electrolyte balance. Give them a good electrolyte that does not contain artificial flavors or colors. You can put it in their feed or water. Always start off with a small amount and work your way up to the recommended dosage on the label.
Check For Dehydration
This can happen quickly. To see if your horse is dehydrated pinch the skin on your horses neck if the skin flattens back into place when you let go in less than one second the horse is fine. If it does not, then it means the horse is not drinking enough water and is possibly dehydrated. Make sure your horse has access to fresh clean water at all times. Horses require a minimum of 8 to 12 gallons of water per day.
If you don't have trees available for shade then have a run-in shed with good ventilation. If you keep them in a stall make sure there is plenty of air circulation. If not put up fans.
Did you know that it only takes 17 minutes of moderate exercise in hot, humid weather to raise a horse's temperature to dangerous levels? To cool your horse off pour water over them and then scrape it off, pour on more, and just keep repeating this process. Be sure to scrape the water off as that is very important to cool them down. If you don't scrape off the water it will get trapped in the horse's hair and quickly warm up.
Heat stroke can happen to horses that stand in stuffy barns or from traveling in trailers? Call your Veterinarian if your horse has any of these signs:
Labored or faster breathing in an inactive horse
Elevated pulse that does not drop a few minutes after being worked
Profuse or no sweating at all
Elevated body temperature