Keeping your horse cool in hot weather

As the summer temperatures rise and we all rush outside to get some sun, it is important to remember that our horses may not feel the same as we do and often struggle in the heat. Many horses find the hot weather uncomfortable, but there is plenty we can do to keep them cool. 

The film on the right shows two horses from Ontario, Canada who have a great option when they want to cool down, they just hang out in their own pond. Their owner admits they spend a lot of the summer in the water and will even totally submerge themselves, dunking their entire heads underwater to stay cool and avoid the flies.If your horse doesn't have access to a pond to paddle in, then ensure he can regulate his own heat by giving him access to a cool shelter or a tree to stand under if he is turned out. You can cool your stable down by using a fan, but make sure it isn't directly aimed at your horse and he is comfortable with the noise. 

Ensure your horse has access to plenty of fresh water, he will sweat a lot more in this weather and need to replenish his fluid levels. Horses should have access to a salt or mineral lick to ensure they meet their sodium chloride requirement.

If your horse is very bothered by insects then use a fly sheet and insect repellant. If the flies are very bad at a particular time of day and he doesn't have access to a shelter then stable your horse at that time to give him a break. Of course horses do stand head to tail to keep the flies off each other by flicking their tails over their partner, so turnout with friends is vital. Fly swatting for their buddy is equine co-operation at it's best!

If your horse has a very thick coat and is overheating (like a Cushing’s sufferer, for example) then it may be wise to clip him to keep him comfortable.

If you're going to ride or transport your horse, do it first thing in the morning or in the evening when it is cooler. Don't ask too much of your horse when riding and take plenty of breaks if you are schooling, horses can overheat very quickly when ridden. After riding cool your horse off well – hose or sponge him down all over with cool water. He may well appreciate this even if you aren't going to exercise him.

Watch out for sunburn and be extra careful to protect pale skin with sun cream. Non-pigmented areas like white markings and pink muzzles can burn very easily, so sunblock should be used. Grey horses are particularly susceptible to sunburn, so keep them out of the sun in the middle of the day and monitor their skin regularly when out.

Horses can suffer from heatstroke so be aware of the potential symptoms. Watch out for any unusual raise in heart rate, or respiration. If you are in any way concerned your horse is sweating abnormally – either too much or not at all, move him somewhere cool and call your vet.

There are some great tips for managing your horse in hot weather from the University of Minnesota here.