Advice for Horse Management as Warm Weather Continues

16 June 2023

Horse and yard owners are being advised by welfare charities to make sure their horses get plenty of extra rest and rehydration to help them stay happy and healthy in the hot weather that’s been forecast. Here LiveryList bring you some useful advice to manage the horses in your care, and guide your clients, during this warm spell. 

With the increasing temperatures seen over the last week, its important to consider factors that may increase the risk of illness in equines induced by excess heat such as dehydration, heat exhaustion, sunburn or heat stroke. As with humans, the greatest at risk groups are older horses, younger horses, overweight equines and those with underlying veterinary conditions.

First and foremost, important points for day to day management…

  • Ensure that horses have access to plenty to fresh water. Make sure water is in the shade, and if you are able to replenish or top up water regularly to keep it cool this is ideal.
  • Ensure that if in the paddock horses have access to good shade- be this field shelters, trees or other natural shelter. Somewhere where they can keep cool out of the direct sun.
  • If horses are to be stabled, ensure there is plenty of water provided, and ideally good ventilation keeping the stables airy. Fans can be an option, safely placed, if there is no natural breeze.
  • Consider the best turnout regime for your yard: turnout overnight and stabled in the day may prevent flies a,d keep horses out of the sun for the hottest part of the day, but if possible all day turnout with good shade may be better if ventilation is poor in stables.
  • Encourage a higher intake of water by soaking hay, adding water to feeds, or introducing salt licks (to encourage drinking) in the stables or paddocks.
  • Horses may be seen sweating whilst resting, this is generally of no concern and a natural cooling method for equines.
  • If you must exercise your horse in the warmer part of the day, limit the duration and keep to less strenuous exercises. Limit equipment such as thick saddle pads and books if not necessary to help your horse keep cool.
  •  After exercise, untack quickly and make sure your horse is properly cooled down, ideally hosed off or sponged down to remove sweat and aid the cooling process.
  • When horses sweat, they don’t just lose water. They also lose electrolyte minerals. Consider adding electrolytes to the horses diet to help replenish these, and prevent a deficiency in important vitamins and minerals.
  • If you are travelling your horse then leave early or late to avoid the hottest part of the day. Consider traffic congestion on your route and allow plenty of time to travel, and for your horse to cool down before you arrive.
  • Fly rugs and masks can be very effective to reduce irritation, but in addition you also need to consider if these may increase heat. Lightweight, light coloured masks and rugs are ideal.
  • Ensure that stables are kept clean and fields poo-picked to make sure these areas are less appealing to flies.
  • If you’re at events, make sure you tie up or rest in the shade, regularly offer water and only exercise and be mounted when absolutely necessary. Make sure you are aware of water points.
  • Consider that the ground may be harder, leading to increased concussion and increased risk of injury to legs so plan exercise accordingly.
  • Sunburn can be a risk, especially to horses and ponies with pink noses. Standard human sun tan lotion can be applied regularly to help prevent this occurring.
  • Ben mindful that grass intake may be reduced and if prolonged heat, paddocks may become drier. Consider this may increase the risks of colic.

What to do if a horse overheats (courtesy of Dr David Marlin)

“If a horse overheats, then time is critical. You should remove any tack or equipment, take the horse to a shaded area and apply cool water (<20°C) all over the body. The colder the water, the quicker time to take effect. It may take 10-15 minutes of continuous cooling for the horse to improve. If the horse is ataxic (wobbly on their feet) try to keep them moving. If your horse is not recovering or appears to be getting worse, seek veterinary help. “

Dr David Marlin has been one of the voices giving out advice, and has created a useful fact sheet giving vital information to protect both horses and those handling them.

You can download the fact sheet here: Heatwave Best Practice for Horses by Dr David Marlin

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