Sudden high temperatures do not allow the horses to adapt to the change and so they are more likely to suffer. Their temperature, breathing and heart rate go up, they may scour or look slightly colicky and will be disinclined to do very much and if asked to move, may look a bit wobbly. They may or not be sweaty. Some salient points for coping in this hot weather are:
• Ensure the water supply is good, and fresh clean water is available at all times. Thirsty birds can commit suicide in field troughs which does not improve the water quality!
• If you soak hay, limit this to a maximum of one hour immediately before feeding. The longer it is wet, the more acid producing bacteria proliferate.
• Supplement grass with soaked bagged forages. Soak times are less in very warm weather so do not soak for more than half a day and check that any moist feed is fresh.
• If grazing is short and you think your horse is ingesting soil, swill a handful of poo in a bucket of water and see if any soil or sand settles to the bottom. This could indicate that soil or sand is building up in the large intestine. Linseed and beet pulp will both help shift it, as well as other products containing good levels of soluble fibre.
• Hooves can get very brittle in this weather and clenches will lift quicker with fast work on hard ground. You may need the farrier a little sooner than usual. Linseed is great for helping to keep hooves less brittle so use a balancer from our range which contains this . Hoof oil applied in the morning will help to contain any moisture from the dew but that applied in the evening could stop dew moisturising the hooves.
• Horses lose moisture in hot weather even if you do not notice they are sweating. Salt is important for horses as their sweat is saltier than their blood. Provide a salt lick or add something such as Simple System Horse Feeds Summer Salt to the feed or water. Salted water is a great way to maintain electrolyte and fluid balance especially when horses are working but have plain water available as well. 1.5 measures of Summer Salt to a standard stable bucket is salty enough to help, but weak enough not to cause any problems.
• Be aware that horses turned out with no shade, or prevented by a dominant horse from using it, those in horse boxes (travelling or stationary), those wearing rugs including fly rugs and hairier horses can all be affected by heat. Bigger and heavier horses are more likely to be affected than slimmer models, as it is harder for them to dissipate heat.
• Go easy when it is very hot. Ride early or late to avoid the heat and choose the shady side of the track. Try to avoid fast work!
• If you are concerned your horse is overheating you need to call your vet, but in the meantime, it is worth hosing or sponging with plenty of cold water, keeping the horse out of the sun and finding any bit of breeze there is. A stable may not have sufficient air flow.
Concentrate most on thin-skinned areas as the blood is nearer the surface – neck, shoulders, between the legs. Allow the horse to drink as much as it wants (including salted water) and if it is not drinking, encourage this with grazing, soaked feed and wet hay. Soaked beet pulp is the best way to get a horse to eat water as it absorbs five times its volume of water.
For more information, visit our friends at Simple System Horse Feeds.
Lead photo credit – Stuart Vesty