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I’m sure this isn’t news to you, but we are having a heatwave in the UK at the moment. With highs of 30 degrees and hot humid mornings, it can be hard to decide what is best for our horse and how to keep them as comfortable as possible. Dehydration and overheating can be fatal in horses, so it is important to keep them as cool as possible.
In or Out?
One of the first questions people ask is “should my horse be in the stable or out in the field?” Personally I think this really depends on your yard! Often people say keep them in, out the sun during the warmest parts of the day and out overnight or at cooler times. However, this isn’t always possible for everyone and sometimes the stables may be warmer than the outside.
Our stables have a tin roof and are often hotter than the field when the sun beats down on them. We therefore turn out from around 7am to 6pm. There are big water troughs in all the fields and areas of shade. While our fields don’t have the best shade cover, they are on a hill and get some breeze and are always cooler than the yard and stables.
It is vital to make sure your horse has plenty of access to clean water. You may want to top water buckets up higher than you usually do in the field and stable to ensure they will have plenty of water to last them.
If you are going away from home for a lesson or competition, bring some of your yards water with you as some horses are funny about drinking strange water. You might also want to bring apple juice or mints to flavour the water to encourage them to drink.
Even though you may provide your horse with plenty of fresh water, they still may not drink as much as they may need to. Even if you think your horse is drinking enough water, I would still take steps to get extra water into my horse.
Some great ways to do this can be to:
- Extra water into their feeds
- Soak or dampen their hay
- Feed extra ‘wet’ treats like apples and carrots
- Make an ice lolly for your horse with water, juice and pieces of fruit
Do you need to ride?
I don’t know about you, but when it is this hot, the last thing I want to do is put a riding hat on and do some work! Your horse probably feels the same! Is it possible to cut your horses workload back at all? Give him an extra day off or have shorter sessions.
We can’t always cut back the workload, especially in the middle of the competition season. But you should make sure you try and avoid the hottest parts of the day. A few people at my yard have been riding before work in the mornings. Others have been going up after dinner time to ride in the evenings.
If your horse is working throughout this heat wave or is getting particularly sweaty, you might want to consider adding electrolytes into their diet. Electrolytes replenish any minerals the horse may lose through sweating and keeping cool.
Cover up pink skin!
Just like us, horses can get sunburn. Horses with pink noses and white heels are at particular risk and you should apply sun cream to help protect them. But just because your horse doesn’t appear to have pink skin does not mean they will not burn. Keep an eye on them and if you are in doubt just put suncream on! You shouldn’t need to pay out for equine specific suncream. Human sunscreen works just as well. Make sure to choose a water resistant one!
Coping with flies
When the sun comes out, so do the flies! In a previous post I shared my bug busting tips and tricks. However, when it is this warm it can often be too warm for fly rugs and sometimes even fly masks! Unless your horse has a really bad reaction to horse flies, I would be tempted to only use a fly rug over night, dusk and dawn when the midges are out in full force and when it is that bit cooler.
How do you keep your horse cool?