HANDS ON

EQUUS - - Equus -

• Pre­vent heat stress • Help for an anx­ious horse • Three keys to bet­ter bathing • Photic re­ac­tions

There’s no avoid­ing sweaty sad­dle pads when you ride in the sum­mer. But “hot” can turn into “dan­ger­ously over­heated” quickly if you don’t make sure your horse can cope with the heat be­fore, dur­ing and af­ter a work­out.

Be­fore you ride on a hot day, par­tic­u­larly if hu­mid­ity is high, make sure your horse is man­ag­ing the heat well enough. A horse who has been stand­ing in a shady field or a well-ven­ti­lated stall shouldn’t be sweaty be­fore you even tack up. In hot weather, con­sider spong­ing or hos­ing your horse with wa­ter be­fore you ride. Scrape him thor­oughly (if you leave too much wa­ter on his coat it will sim­ply heat up rather than evap­o­rat­ing quickly enough to pro­vide cool­ing) and then tack up while he is still damp. The wa­ter will evap­o­rate as he works, just as sweat would, keep­ing him cooler.

As you ride, be mind­ful of how your horse is cop­ing with the heat. Take breaks of­ten and check his re­s­pi­ra­tory rate, ei­ther vis­ually or by feel­ing him breathe be­neath you. It’s not un­usual for a hard-work­ing horse to breathe hard, but his res­pi­ra­tion should re­turn to nor­mal af­ter a few min­utes of walk­ing. If your horse breathes hard longer, or if he sud­denly just seems slug­gish, he needs a break in the shade, a cool­ing bath and ac­cess to wa­ter.

Af­ter your ride, head for the wash stall. There is no harm in putting cold wa­ter on a hot, sweaty horse, and it can help lower his body tem­per­a­ture. Scrape the wa­ter off, then walk your horse for sev­eral min­utes to al­low his mus­cles to cool down. Also of­fer him some wa­ter to drink. If his de­meanor and re­s­pi­ra­tory rate don’t seem nor­mal within a half-hour, take his tem­per­a­ture. If it’s el­e­vated, rinse and scrape him again. Then re­take his tem­per­a­ture. If it hasn’t dropped con­sid­er­ably, call your vet­eri­nar­ian.

When you turn your horse out or re­turn him to his stall, make sure he has plenty of clean, fresh wa­ter avail­able. It can take sev­eral hours and many drinks to re­place flu­ids lost dur­ing a work­out on a hot day. If he has sweated for more than two hours, con­sider adding an elec­trolyte sup­ple­ment to his evening meal to re­place vi­tal min­er­als lost through per­spi­ra­tion.

By Christine Barakat with Melinda Freck­le­ton, DVM

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