Horse Owner’s Sum­mer Note­book

Trail Rider - - FEATURES - — Re­becca Gimenez, PhD

A roundup of ex­pert tips and check­lists to help keep you and your horse safe, cool, hy­drated, and pest-free this sum­mer, at home and on the road.

4 Ways to Beat the Sum­mer Heat

Heat and hu­mid­ity place an added bur­den on horses dur­ing trail rid­ing, train­ing, showing, and trans­port­ing. Es­pe­cially dur­ing the busy sum­mer travel and show sea­son, it’s im­por­tant to make sure your horse isn’t be­com­ing over­heated, stays suf­fi­ciently hy­drated, and re­mains com­fort­able, even when tem­per­a­tures soar.

“Horses are bet­ter equipped to work in cold weather than in the heat,” says Katie Young, PhD, equine nu­tri­tion­ist and man­ager of equine tech­ni­cal ser­vices for Purina Animal Nu­tri­tion. “They build up a tremen­dous amount of body heat as a re­sult of fiber di­ges­tion and mus­cle ex­er­tion — plus in­su­la­tion from the hair­coat and body fat. Hot, hu­mid weather can make heat dis­si­pa­tion ex­tremely dif­fi­cult.”

Dr. Young and Dr. Karen Dav­i­son, equine nu­tri­tion­ist and sales sup­port man­ager for Purina, share these tips for horse owners to help en­sure a healthy sum­mer sea­son.

1 Head off heat stress. A horse’s main cool­ing mech­a­nism is evap­o­ra­tion of sweat from the skin sur­face. In­creased hu­mid­ity re­duces this evap­o­ra­tion, de­creas­ing the horse’s abil­ity to cool down. Un­der ex­treme heat, es­pe­cially with high hu­mid­ity, the body’s cool­ing mech­a­nisms may not work well enough to dis­si­pate the heat gen­er­ated. This can lead to heat stress, which is hard on the body and can im­pair per­for­mance.

A sim­ple cal­cu­la­tion can help you de­ter­mine your horse’s risk level for heat stress. Take the am­bi­ent tem­per­a­ture (de­grees Fahren­heit), add the rel­a­tive hu­mid­ity (%), and sub­tract the wind speed (mph). So, if the am­bi­ent tem­per­a­ture is 98° F with a 55% rel­a­tive hu­mid­ity and wind speed of 5 mph: 98 + 55 – 5 = 148. Here’s what the answers mean.

• 130 or less: The horse’s own cool­ing mech­a­nisms will work ef­fec­tively. • 140 to 170: The horse has par­tial cool­ing ca­pac­ity and may need some as­sis­tance cool­ing down.

• Higher than 180: The horse is at high risk for heat stress or even heat stroke.

2 Don’t hes­i­tate to hy­drate. Sweat gen­er­ated dur­ing work robs the body of large amounts of flu­ids and im­por­tant nu­tri­ents that must be re­plen­ished. So it’s very im­por­tant to pro­vide ad­e­quate clean wa­ter to help horses stay hy­drated. In some sit­u­a­tions, such as travel, it can be hard to per­suade your horse to drink enough wa­ter. Com­pressed hay blocks soaked in wa­ter can be very help­ful in these sit­u­a­tions. For in­stance, a two-pound Purina Hy­dra

® tion Hay Horse Hay Block will ab­sorb 10

® pounds, or ap­prox­i­mately 5 quarts of wa­ter, pro­vid­ing your horse both wa­ter and hay. Of­ten, a horse will eat a hay block with wa­ter even when he turns up his nose at a bucket of wa­ter. 3 Amp up elec­trolytes. Elec­trolytes are elec­tri­cally charged min­eral salts that play a ma­jor role in wa­ter bal­ance, and are in­te­gral to nerve and mus­cle func­tion. An elec­trolyte im­bal­ance can lead to heart prob­lems, di­ges­tive dys­func­tion, mus­cle cramps, and ner­vous­ness. The pri­mary elec­trolytes lost in a horse’s sweat are sodium, potas­sium, and chlo­ride.

Horses work­ing at light to mod­er­ate levels will re­ceive ad­e­quate elec­trolytes from a nu­tri­tion­ally bal­anced feed, good qual­ity hay, and a salt block or a cou­ple of ounces of loose salt each day. Even if these horses are sweat­ing a bit, a good diet (in­clud­ing free choice or top-dressed salt), along with plenty of clean wa­ter, is usu­ally ad­e­quate to re­plen­ish the elec­trolytes lost in sweat. How­ever, if your horse works very hard in hot, hu­mid cli­mates and sweats a great deal, he’ll most likely need ad­di­tional elec­trolyte sup­ple­men­ta­tion.

4 Eval­u­ate the en­vi­ron­ment. Pay at­ten­tion to en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions and try to avoid work­ing your horse when the risk of heat stress is high. Pro­vide ad­e­quate wa­ter for hydration and elec­trolytes to re­plen­ish sweat loss. Try to work in the shade. Switch on fans and use cold wa­ter to wash down your hot horse.

A roundup of ex­pert tips and check­lists to help keep you and your horse safe, cool, hy­drated, and pest-free this sum­mer, at home and on the road.

Fol­low these tips to help your horse stay cool as you haul him dur­ing warm sum­mer months.

In­stall a fan. Con­sider adding light­weight, small fans to your trailer’s elec­tri­cal sys­tem, and af­fix them to the wall for high hu­mid­ity and high tem­per­a­ture con­di­tions.

Buy a gauge. Buy a wire­less gauge that will en­able you to see the real-time tem­per­a­ture in­side the trailer from in­side your tow ve­hi­cle. At­tach the gauge at about mid-neck height in the trailer. Avoid any wall where you might get a false read­ing from the sun beat­ing down on the trailer. You’ll see that your trailer’s tem­per­a­ture can eas­ily be 8 to 10 de­grees higher than the out­side tem­per­a­ture.

Avoid blan­ket­ing. Don’t blan­ket your horse while trai­ler­ing him in the sum­mer. His phys­i­ol­ogy is made to reg­u­late his tem­per­a­ture per­fectly well; a blan­ket will in­hibit his abil­ity to cool him­self nat­u­rally.

Avoid the heat. Avoid haul­ing dur­ing the heat of the day; haul at night or in the early morn­ing.

Open the vents and win­dows. To in­crease ac­tive cool­ing, open all pas­sive vents. Also, open your trailer win­dows if there are screens to keep road de­bris out of your horse’s eyes. If you don’t have screens, use a fly mask.

Pro­vide am­ple wa­ter. Of­fer wa­ter to your horse be­fore, dur­ing, and af­ter trans­port. His wa­ter needs will in­crease in hot con­di­tions. Give him as much wa­ter as he wants!

Con­sider elec­trolytes. Dis­cuss elec­trolytes and salt sup­ple­ments with your vet­eri­nar­ian. These min­er­als re­place salt lost in sweat.

Take breaks. Un­load your horse at a safe stop for a few hours, where he can be in the shade, and eat and drink nor­mally.


A horse’s main cool­ing mech­a­nism is evap­o­ra­tion of sweat from the skin sur­face. To head off heat stress, switch on fans (shown), pro­vide ad­e­quate wa­ter and elec­trolytes, try to work in the shade, and use cold wa­ter to wash down your hot horse.

Only open your trailer win­dows if you have good screens!

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