condition and reasons Be careful when working with your horse on hot summer days, as they can be more at risk of overheating. “Heat stress occurs when the body can’t get rid of excess heat,” says Robinson.
She lists several causes, including hot or humid weather, exercise when the horse is unable to cool off, insufficient shade during hot days, insufficient water, dehydration, lack of perspiration, and poor ventilation.
Signals and management Makuniko says he watches for nasal burning, difficulty breathing, fever (rectal temperature over 101 degrees Fahrenheit), and elevated heart rates in potentially affected horses.
A horse’s temperature rises during exercise, but a healthy horse’s temperature should return to normal within 20 minutes of cooling down, Makuniko says. When that doesn’t happen, heat stress becomes a concern. She noted that if a horse’s temperature reached 106 degrees Fahrenheit, permanent brain damage could occur.
If you are concerned that your horse is overheating, take immediate steps to help him cool down. “The best places to start are on the horse’s legs,” says Robinson. Blood vessels are closer to the surface in those locations, she explains, so run cold water there. Be sure to use a washcloth or sweat scraper to remove excess water so that the heat is not trapped on the horse.
Robinson also suggests several other methods, including pouring rubbing alcohol over the front of the horse, offering water in moderation, and placing the horse in front of fans or sprays.
Because the condition can be life-threatening, if your horse hasn’t cooled down and you suspect heat exhaustion, Makuniko advises contacting your veterinarian immediately. Be prepared to give your vet as much information as possible about your horse’s condition, she says, from vital signs to detailed notes you’ve made about his clinical signs.
protection Do you know what your horse’s temperature is? Both vets say knowing this, along with his usual post-exercise temperature, can help you determine if heat stress is a concern in the future.
Makuniko advocates checking the heat index before riding, and developing an aggressive cooling plan for your horse.
“yesYou may have to adjust your routine as the temperature rises during the hot months,” Robinson says. This may mean choosing to ride in the morning and evening when the temperature is lower or changing the length or intensity of your workouts, she explains.
Take the letter home
Summer provides many opportunities to get out with your horse. Owners who understand their horse’s normal behaviors and vital signs will be better equipped to determine if something isn’t quite right. In addition, a good working relationship with a reliable veterinarian is important. He or she will be your first resource if summer conditions take a bad turn.