Staying cool during the summerBeing from the Midwest (northwest Indiana), Ive become used to brutally cold winters and equally as hot summers. I can remember going to the barn when the temperature would be over 95 degrees with intense humidity and the sun glaring down. When the weather gets this hot, there is a concern for heatstroke and dehydration both for yourself and your horse. Luckily there are several tips to stay cool and hydrated in the hot summer heat.Although the saying goes, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink”, water is incredibly important to our equine friends, especially in the heat of summer after exercise and long periods in the sun. Similar to humans, horses’ bodies should be comprised of about 65% water to maintain adequate hydration levels and on average a horse should drink around 10-12 gallons of water a day depending on their activity level and climate.
Dehydration can set in quickly and have serious, harmful effects if a horse is left in the hot weather unable to replenish their bodily water supply. Water troughs with ice blocks in them or watering systems are a great way to always keep cool, fresh water in front of your horse while they are grazing in the field during the hot summer days. Also be sure to always pack a few clean water buckets while away at a show to keep water available to your horse. Most of the horses I’ve interacted with over the years all have happened to be big drinkers without persuasion but If you happen to have a picky drinker there are a few tricks to help them stay hydrated!-Clean water buckets: it is still surprising (and gross) how dirty water buckets can get. It is always a good idea to clean out and scrub your horse’s water buckets once a week to get all the leftover food, dust, and stagnant water out and keep the crud from getting caked on the bucket. Your horse will notice a different and appreciate a clean fresh bucket to drink out of and may make a difference for some fussy guys.-Frozen treats: an old trick I’ve seen is to freeze apples, carrots, or other fresh treats in a bucket of water, then toss it into a feed bucket for your horse. Your horse should lick the frozen block to get to the tasty treats hiding inside the ice keep him hydrated in the process.Electrolytes, natural minerals which are essential to several bodily functions, are also lost during prolonged periods of sweat. For human athletes, there are several different brands of sports drinks on the market to replace our electrolyte levels and luckily there are similar supplements available for our equine athletes after long rides or hours grazing and sweating in the sun.
Many of these supplements can easily be added to your horse’s diet to help replenish and maintain their electrolyte levels.Another effective and easy thing you can do for your horse in the heat is to install a box fan on the front their stall or throughout the barn isles. You can also keep the barn doors open to allow a cool breeze to pass through the isles and cool everyone down. Giving your horse a cool off bath on overly hot days can provide them with temporary relief as well. In addition to these tips and tricks it is incredibly important to monitor your horse’s behavior and health during intensely hot periods. Always contact your vet if dehydration is a possibility and be sure to dial back the intensity of riding on hot days to keep horse and rider safe and comfortable.