Tuesday 23rd of July 2024
Vet Advice

Keeping your horse cool

Written by Chris Neal MRCVS

Recently, we have been experiencing some beautiful weather in the South East, with temperatures soaring to 34 degrees, doing wonders for the suntan! However, we have seen a few horses and ponies over the last few days suffering from heat exhaustion.

These horses usually have had no shelter and become dehydrated, lethargic, dull and exhibited signs of mild colic. Below are a few points that you can do to keep your horses cool in the unnatural weather we are seeing at the moment:

·       Provide areas of shade, such as field shelters or trees, ensuring there is enough at all times of the day. If no shade is available, turnout at night and stable during the hottest part of the day (12pm-4pm), is another way of keeping your horse away from the heat. Portable fans in the stable can help keep horses cool – solar or battery powered are often best due to the lack of wires that our horses will obviously try and nibble.  We are doing this in our hospital for some of our inpatients that are cross-tied or severely ill.

·       Always provide clean, fresh water – warm water left in the field will be unpalatable. Salt licks can encourage drinking, so put a few of these around the paddock or in the stable. Commercially available electrolyte solutions can aid hydration – these can be in a paste form or placed directly in water, however, they can be unpalatable so always provide clean fresh water alongside them and always stick to the recommended dose for your horse’s weight.

·       Cool your horse down with regular sponges of water and hosing – we are fortunate enough to have mist based systems at the clinic, which are perfect at reducing horse’s heat, however, if these are unavailable cooling your horses down every 2-3hrs with cold hosing can be beneficial.

·       Clip out horses with dark coats or those with long coats, as this will minimise sweating and electrolyte loss. If your horse has PPID/Cushing’s then this is imperative. Commercially available fly sheets can actually be really cool and reflect heat and UV rays, so consider using them if your horse has pale skin (eg. grey/piebald).

·       Apply sun creams to horses with pale, exposed non-pigmented skin and cover areas of white hair (eg. socks/blaze etc) with creams such as summer fly cream or Filtabac to provide increased protection from UV rays. If the sunburn becomes excessive, please get in contact as it could be the sign of an underlying photosensitisation.

·       Alter your workload – remember that the heat, especially during 12pm-4pm will mean that your horse tires and sweats more than usual, which will mean normal workloads and strenuous exercise may predispose them to heat exhaustion. If strenuous exercise is needed, exercise at dawn or dusk (we are lucky with our long evenings in the UK) and ensure they are cooled off appropriately afterwards, removing tack as soon as possible.

Keep an eye on your horse, and if you are concerned that he is more lethargic, has tacky mucous membranes with a raised respiratory and heart rate or shows signs of colic please get in contact with us so we can talk you through what needs to be done.


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