Summer is one of the best times to ride and enjoy your horse, especially when you live in a northern climate that can be covered in snow and ice for 6 months of the year. Horse keeping in the summer months can also have its challenges, and we would like to share some helpful tips for keeping your horses happy and healthy during the summer heat.
Water: Everyone knows how important water is for everyone and your horse is no different. On a hot summer day a horse can drink upwards of 20 gallons of water or more. The horse relies on good hydration to keep all of its bodily functions operating normally, it is especially important for the horse’s digestive system. A horse should have access to clean, cool, water at all times. Although natural water sources are convenient, keep in mind that in the drier parts of the summer, lakes, ponds, and even streams and rivers can become stagnant and may contain harmful parasites or bacteria. It is important to offer a second clean water source if you are using a natural water supply.
Pasture: Summer is a great time to save on some hay and get your horses out on grass, if it is available to you. We try to keep in mind that every horse is different and some horses may not be able to tolerate 24 hours of rich green grass. We recommend consulting your veterinarian about your horse’s grazing, to see how much grass they recommend. On average a grazing horse can eat 1-1.4 lbs of grass per hour. This may not seem like much, but sugars in grass are much higher than they are in hay, so care should be taken to make sure your horse is eating a healthy amount of this rich forage. It is also very important to check your pastures daily for any hazards that may develop. You may find poisonous weeds, a downed tree, damaged fencing, etc. so before turning your horses out, be sure to check that their pasture is safe.
Weather: Summer can have its share of extreme weather, and it is up to us to make sure our horses are safe during these events. If you have horses, you should be checking the weather daily, and making arrangements to make sure that your horses have access to shelter during severe weather events. Depending on the type of weather that is common in your area, safety procedures may vary, so make sure you are up to date on what to do during a weather emergency and have an emergency plan in place. Every state has guidelines and precautions to follow for events such as hurricanes and tornadoes, so it is definitely a good idea to familiarize yourself with this information.
Heat: Just the heat alone can take its toll on both humans and horses during those long hot summer days. You should make sure you know the signs of heat exhaustion in horses and know what to do if it happens. Some common signs of heat exhaustion in horses are:
- Temperature over 102 degrees (Even after cool down period)
- Rapid breathing (Even after cool down period)
- Increased Heart Rate (Even after cool down period)
- Profuse sweating
- Slow Capillary refill time
If you are worried that your horse may be suffering from heat exhaustion you should move them to a cool shaded area, provide a fan and call the veterinarian right away. There are treatments that you can do on your own that include hosing the horse with cool (not ice cold) water remembering the scrape water away as you hose the horse, and also offering tepid (not ice cold) water to drink. Your veterinarian will best be able to assist and advise you what to do for your horse.
Summer is a great time of year for both horses and humans, and we can all enjoy it even more when we are mindful of the challenges that may arise. Happy summer and happy trails!