The summer heat can make staying cool a challenge for anyone, and chances are you don’t have the luxury of an air conditioned barn. Your horse will thank you if you take some steps to keep him cool and comfortable.
Cover the Basics
Shelter and access to clean water become even more important during the summer. Your horse will drink more water, so be sure to check his buckets regularly and keep the supply fresh and appealing. If your horse is a heavy sweater, consider adding electrolytes to his diet to encourage him to drink and replenish those lost through sweat.
Provide your barn with as much ventilation as possible to keep temperatures down. Open any doors and windows available, and consider installing fans if you haven’t already done so. Be sure to use only fans which are barn-safe; household fans not intended for barn use are serious fire hazards. Classic Equine Equipment offers multiple fans safe for barn use which will keep your horse cool and comfortable.
Learn to Love the Dark
Change your turnout and riding schedule to take advantage of the cooler weather that comes in at nighttime. If possible, turn your horse out at night instead of during the day. Ride at times when the sun isn’t at its strongest – early in the morning or late in the afternoon are better times to ride, though waiting until even later on into the evening can mean a cooler, more enjoyable ride for you and your horse.
Know Your Horse
On extremely hot, humid days, it might be best – and safest – to forego riding altogether. Some horses handle heat better than others, so familiarize yourself with your horse’s individual limits, and stay well within them. Watch for signs that the heat is getting to be too much for your horse – these signs include a slowed pace, lack of impulsion, lowered head, labored breathing, and listless ears. If you observe any of these signs while you’re riding, immediately dismount, untack, and cool your horse.
Cool Him Down – Correctly
While hosing off horses is a popular way to cool them down, many riders hose the horse off once, scrape off the excess water, and leave it at that, but doing so actually leaves warm water to sit on your horse’s skin, which doesn’t offer much in the means of cooling. To effectively cool your horse you need to continuously hose him down, scrape off the excess water, and then repeat the process until your horse is cooled. Focus on the large muscles, such as the hindquarters, neck, and shoulders, since these produce lots of heat.
Hot summer days are certainly ahead of us, but with a little preparation you can manage them so that your horse is as comfortable as possible.