Summer time brings with it much loved days of sunshine and extended daylight hours to spend more time with our horses and ponies. It also often offers many more opportunities to compete, have lessons and attend events such as sponsored rides. It is vital though as horse owners that we are well informed in helping our horses cope with hot temperatures, ensuring they don’t suffer whilst we enjoy the fabulous opportunities that summer brings.
The horse’s normal rectal temperature at rest is around 37-38°C(98.6-100.4°F), but when muscles work during exercise, the muscles produce heat.
Though a normal process in itself, if the horse overheats through exercise, it can be highly detrimental to their health. High body temperatures (above 41°C) result in high sweat rates and large sweat losses, meaning a loss of both water and electrolytes.
This can lead to dehydration, a reduction in performance, or more serious consequences.
So, what can we do as horse owners to prevent problems and protect our horses in hot temperatures?
My 5 Top Tips!
1.) Respiration. The horse will act to cool itself down through breathing. Around 15% of heat loss can occur through breathing. After competing or a tough training session, monitor your horse’s breathing and assess his respiration rate. It should be higher immediately after exercise, but reduce over a period of a few minutes. If you are jumping, cantering and working hard in hot temperatures, walk your horse off gently to allow their breathing rate to return to normal.
2) Convection. When heat is produced by the horse’s muscles, it is carried to the surface of the horse’s skin by the bloodstream. If the surrounding air is cooler than the horse, as the horse moves through the air, some heat will be lost by the process of convection.
If it is a breezy or even windy day, this will help our horses cool down post exercise; if it is not and the air is still, or the weather is particularly humid, our equines will need more help from us to reduce their temperatures, such as applying cold water. (Read on!)
3.) Cold Water Cooling. If you horse is hot after exercise, cool them with cold water. If the weather is exceptionally hot and your horse is competing at a high level, it may be wise to melt some ice into the water too. If your horse is very hot post exercise, this should be done as quickly as possible. Liberally apply cold water to all parts of the body, but particularly target the hindquarters. This is because this is where most of the large muscles used for movement are located, so it can help to reduce temperate very effectively.
4.) Evaporation. Heat is lost when sweat evaporates from the horse, but this mechanism actually doesn’t do much to keep the horse cool, and can be in some instances simply wasted fluid loss. Walk your horse after applying water, as the walking promotes skin blood flow, and the movement of air aids evaporation. If possible, carry out the cooling and walking in the shade.
5.) Electrolytes. If your horse has lost significant sweat during exercise, it is essential to replenish both their fluid loss and their loss of Electrolytes.
Once your equine’s cardiovascular systems have returned to a resting rate, offer ample water and once returning home, supply an Electrolytes for Horses Supplement such as Horse Electrolytes with MSM, from Scientific Nutritional Products. Why? As equine sweat is isotonic. This means that the sweat contains salts, known as minerals, including sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium and chloride. Losses of these minerals can cause our horse’s to suffer from tiredness, muscle stiffness, dehydration and in severe cases colic. Providing a Horse Electrolyte supplement in the diet after travelling, competing or a strenuous training session can help equine naturally recover post exercise by correcting the balance of electrolytes and water within the body. Supplying Horse Electrolytes alongside ample fresh water to accompany the supplement allows equines to refuel their bodies – ideal for competing horses and leisure horses on hot days, giving horses and ponies the extra boost they need by ensuring the necessary nutrients are available.
Peter Fishpool represents Scientific Nutritional Products.