Caring for Horses in Summer
Summertime in Alberta can bring some extremely hot days, which can cause discomfort or danger for horses. Some simple precautions can help keep your horse protected from the heat.
Make sure your horse has access to clean, fresh water at all times throughout the day. Keep the water level up – ponies and foals may find it hard to reach the bottom of a shallowly filled trough. Check troughs every day to make sure the water is clean and that your horse is drinking enough. A typical horse can drink 40 to 50 litres in a day, and on hot days this can increase by 50%.
Your horse needs a place to escape the sun, such as a shed or a shady treed area. If you build a shelter, remember to allow for plenty of air circulation. Pick up the manure daily around the shelter areas to help reduce flies.
Remember that a horse's endurance time can decrease significantly in hot weather. On hot days, stick to riding in the early morning or evening when it’s cooler. Allow sufficient time to cool down slowly – a sponge bath can help the horse cool down and keep the flies away as well. Horses, like people, cool themselves primarily by sweating, but in doing so they lose a lot of water and minerals. Heat stroke can afflict not only horses being worked, but also ones kept in hot, poorly ventilated stables. Know the signs of heat stroke and watch for them.
Horses can get sunburned, especially light-coloured horses and those with white markings. Common sunburn areas include areas around the muzzle, eyes and ears. To protect your horse from sunburn, you can use human sunscreen with a high UV protection rating. A dark fly mask will protect areas around the eyes, and access to shade also helps. If your horse has a roll in the dust, don’t wash it off – the dust can act as a natural sunblock.
Don’t forget your regular year-round care schedule also applies in the summer. Deworming remains important, especially with the high number of flies and other bugs around in the summer. Keep the flies down by picking up manure regularly. Keep your horse’s hooves trimmed, but don’t clip off the mane or tail too much – your horse needs it to swish away flies.
If you’re a new horse owner ask an experienced horse owner, farrier or stable operator for advice. And as always, call your veterinarian if you have any doubts about your horse’s health.