Summer is the most challenging season for horses. It’s also the high season for trail rides, competitions, and shows. It’s up to us to make the right choices for our horses to help them deal with heat and humidity—things like hosing them down on hot days and choosing the best riding pad to reduce heat buildup.
Equines have more muscle mass than humans, and that puts them at greater risk of overheating—even grazing on a hot day can be dangerous. This is especially true in areas with high humidity since moist air reduces the effects of evaporative cooling.
Here’s how to keep your horse cool and comfortable during the steamy summer season.
Head off heat stress
Like us, horses cool down through sweating. But, because they have so much dense muscle tissue, their bodies may not be able to dissipate all the heat they generate through evaporative cooling alone. That’s why it’s important to know how much a horse can tolerate. Use this simple calculation to determine your horse’s risk of heat stress:
Temperature + relative humidity – wind speed = risk
For example, if the ambient temperature is 90 degrees Fahrenheit, the relative humidity is 45%, and the wind speed is 7 miles per hour, your risk number is 128.
Here’s what this value means:
- 130 or less: The horse’s own cooling mechanisms should effectively cool the animal down
- 140-170: The horse will likely need assistance cooling down
- Higher than 180: The horse is at high risk for overheating or heat stroke
Even if the temperature and humidity levels are in the “safe” zone, your horse can still overheat, especially with intense activity. Watch out for signs like heavy breathing or panting, lethargy, rapid pulse, and excessive salivation or sweating, which are signs the animal is heat stressed.
Choose riding gear wisely
Not all saddle pads are created equal. While some riding pads actually cause heat buildup, the Sedelogic half saddle pad has a multi-layer breathable construction that prevents heat build-up and improves ventilation. Sedelogic’s half saddle pad is lightweight and ergonomically designed to prevent strain on your horse. Best of all, you can reshape the pad as your horse’s physique changes or if you need to switch to a different horse.
Keep them watered
It goes without saying your horses should always have access to cool, fresh water. When it’s hot out water can quickly get warm and stale, so make sure to replenish it frequently. If your horse refuses water during travel, offer them a compressed hay block soaked with water. Also provide a salt block, or mist hay with salt water, which can help trigger their urge to drink.
Give them shade
Your horse needs a way to escape the heat. Shade-bearing trees in pasture are ideal. If this isn’t possible, you’ll need to create shade for your horse. It can be something as simple as a cloth sunshade stretched between four poles or a custom-built run-in shed that complements the main house or barn. A permanent structure is best, since it’s more stable and can also help block the wind during the cold winter months. If you build a structure, make sure the roof is high enough to provide adequate air circulation in hot weather.
Prevent heat stress during transport
Travel is stressful for horses, but especially when it’s hot. Even well-ventilated trailers can heat up quickly during the summer. Choose a trailer with a light-colored exterior to reflect heat and large windows and roof vents. Transport your horse during the coolest part of the day and use rubber mats or wood shavings on the trailer floor to absorb heat.
Hose them down
Hosing down your horse can help quickly lower their body temperature and make them more comfortable. In hot weather, hose down your horse after each workout with cold water. Scrape off the water (which will heat up quickly on a hot horse) and repeat until the horse is cooled down. Even if you’re not riding, hose down your horse during the hottest part of the day. If your horse is overheating, an alcohol bath can help cool him down rapidly. Make a solution of 1 pint of rubbing alcohol per 5 gallons of water and apply to the horse’s entire body to accelerate cooling.
Choose Quality Products for Your Equine Rehab Facility
Following these tips can help keep your horse healthy and comfortable during the hot summer months. It’s also important to invest in the right saddle pad to prevent heat build-up. At Vitafloor USA, you’ll find top-of-the-line horse exercisers, horse vibration plates, saddle pads, and other equine exercise equipment and horse accessories designed to keep your horses competitive, fit, and healthy. Browse our online shop to see our complete line of quality products.