Taking Care of Your Horses In The Heat

We go to great lengths to make ourselves comfortable in the hot weather, air conditioning, fans, cold drinks. What should we do to ensure our horses are also comfortable through our hot, dry and dusty summer?

1. On the priority list –

WATER is definitely right at the top! As a general rule of thumb, horses drink 3-4% of their body weight each day, with this percentage increasing following work or during hot conditions. A 550kg horse will therefore drink (in normal conditions) around 22 litres of water per day, with 50 litres not out of the question in hot weather or after work. If your horse is getting his water supply via buckets do not forget to take into account the evaporation factor, and also ensure that water remains cool. If it becomes tepid, your horse may not drink and could suffer from dehydration. Be aware that you may have to replace or top up during the day. Obviously the best scenario is for your horse to have access to clean, fresh water where he can just meet his own requirements. Horses should be cooled down after work however before being allowed free access to water.

2. On the priority list –

Your horse, like yourself, will appreciate being able to get out of the direct sun in the heat of the day. Therefore shade is important. If there are no trees to provide shade in the paddock, a roofed shelter is desirable. if your stables are cool and well ventiliated, you may decide to keep your horse in during the day and out at night.

3. On the priority list –

Light rugs, sometimes referred to as 'fly sheets', are useful in keeping your horse comfortable in the heat and less annoyed by insects (hint: light colours deflect the heat). Fly veils can also provide your horse with a higher degree of comfort in the daylight hours, but for safety, check regularly. A good fly control program is important as flies and other biting insects can carry diseases, cause sores, annoy any existing wounds and provoke allergic reactions. You may wish to regularly apply a fly repellent, there are a number on the market that are purposely designed for horses. Covering your horse up from the sun will also ensure that his coat does not suffer any "bleaching".

4. On the priority list –

If your horse has a pink muzzle or other sun sensitive parts on his body, apply zinc cream or sun block. For the muzzle you can attach a UV flap from the headstall to protect his nose from the sun. 5 On the priority list – When temperatures really soar, your horse will enjoy a cool hosing or sponging down, to bring down his body temperature. Make sure you scrape the water off afterwards though or it will form a blanket of its own and trap heat to the horse.

6. On the priority list –

If possible do not stable a hot horse. Standing still in a confined area whilst hot can cause the horse's temperature to rise even higher. Walk the horse in the open air to cool off and allow him to stand where there is plenty of air to flow over his body. If possible, plan your ride to avoid the hottest part of the day, kinder on you and him !.

7. On the priority list –

Assess the availability of summer feed and the body weight / condition of your horse regularly as paddock pasture is soon dried out and burnt off by the sun. You should supplement his diet with hay when the pasture is minimised as the digestive system of the horse is designed to continually process fibre.

8. On the priority list –

You should also develop in advance a plan of action to be carried out in the eventuality of a bush fire. The development of a survival plan that meets your individual needs is important. Whether you decide that you would transport your horse to a safe district, or place him in the safest part of the property (which may be a closely grazed paddock, green swampy area, well fenced large sand menage), the main thing is to have a plan in place.

9. On the priority list –

You should also make every effort to remove any fire hazards such as long, excessive grass and leaf litter from around buildings and stables. Clean gutters regularly and store hay, shavings etc. away from the stable block throughout summer.