Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Summertime: Working and Riding Horses In the Heat

Summer brings wonderful days of enjoyment with longer hours to ride. Time can easily get away from a horse and rider if they are not prepared for the heat and sun's rays on a hot day.  Take time to consider what your horse can handle during your riding sessions as well as yourself.   Your horse can easily be susceptible to heat exhaustion just as you are.
Horses lose body heat through sweat, exhaling warm air, and widening blood vessels in their skin.  When the air temperature is near the body temperature of a horse, heat loss is greatly decreased.
As air temperature rises and humidity increases, horses can lose up to 7 gallons of fluid in sweat as well as electrolytes used for bodily function.  Losing 7 gallons an hour can easily dehydrate a horse, so horses working in hot conditions need to drink plenty of water and given electrolytes. Start giving electrolytes in their water in small increments to get the horse adjusted to the taste, then gradually increase to meet the recommendation for the size of horse.
Many horse owners will train or ride their horse in the morning or early evening hours to avoid the hottest part of the day.  If you do have to work your favorite four legged friend in the heat, look for shade and breezes to help cool down until you are able to rinse the horse off, making sure to scrape off the excess water to shed the extra heat that can build up in the hair.  If your horse has a pink nose or eyes that can easily sunburn, you can apply children's sunscreen to help prevent the sun's rays from burning sensitive skin.   Choose a higher grade SPF for horses with white or pink noses.  Once you prepare your horse in advance and have a plan to cool down if overheating happens to occur, you can thoroughly enjoy riding your horse in the summer!