Fans are a great way to help keep the air moving in the barn, but use them wisely. Your horse will benefit most if the fan is pulling the hot air out of the stall, not pushing air into the stall. And always ensure that your horse cannot reach cords and plugs.
4. Mist your horse.
If you are fortunate enough to have a system to mist your horse, use it. As the moisture is absorbed from your horse’s skin, it will take away some of the heat. Frequent mistings are far more effective than a single dousing with a hose.
5. Provide fresh, cool water and an electrolyte source.
If your horse is sweating a great deal, water laced with electrolytes can help keep its body in balance. Whenever you offer electrolytes, however, be sure to offer fresh water, as well, because too many electrolytes can be harmful.
6. Slow down the work.
Don’t think that because your horse has been working intensely at 1:00 pm every day that it can take the heat when the temperature tops 90 degrees. If you have to work your horse in the heat, lighten the work or spread it out over a couple of short sessions. This is especially important when the humidity is high, contributing to the poor quality of the air your horse is breathing. Cool your horse down slowly, and offer frequent sips of cool, not cold, water. Take the tack off as soon as you’re done and sponge the horse off again with cool, not cold, water.
7. Stick to a schedule.
Within the parameters of keeping your horse cool, try to stay as close as possible to a normal schedule. Too much change at one time can be an invitation to colic.
8. Avoid sunburn.
Horses, especially white horses, can suffer from sunburn. Even those with white socks and blazes, pink noses, or hairless patches from scarring can be susceptible. Using a fly scrim can help. In addition, applying sunblock such as zinc oxide, to small, particularly vulnerable areas can be effective. Staying out of the sun’s harmful rays will, of course, be best. (Also be aware: if a horse has excessive sunburn, it could indicate a rare, underlying liver disease).
9. Clip horses with longer hair coats.
Clipping is important, especially for those with Cushings disease. While some coat can provide protection from the sun and insulation, a long, thick coat tends to hold heat and makes it difficult for the horse to cool down. Be careful not to clip the hair too close, as it provides some protection from damaging rays.
10. Know your horse and signs of heat stroke.
Heat stroke can happen anytime your horse is exposed to excessive heat and its body cannot handle it. Heat stroke obviously can happen if exercising in hot conditions, but be aware that it can also happen if standing in a hot stall or trailer.
You should know your horse’s normal temperature, heart, and respiratory rates. To find the heart rate of a horse, simply find a pulse and count the beats for 15 seconds, then multiply that number by four, which will give the beats per minute. Count the breaths per minute in a similar way.
Signs of heat stroke can include:
• Excessive sweating or a lack of sweating
• Temperature that persists above 103 F
• Depression, lethargy
• Signs of dehydration: dry mucous membranes, poor capillary refill, and poor skin turgor (the skin’s ability to change shape and return to normal)