With the summer in full swing, it's time to think about how the hot weather affects your best friend of the equine kind. We've all heard a million pieces of advice on how to protect ourselves during the hot summer months, but have you ever given a thought to your horse also being susceptible to some of the same summer woes we humans are?
Yes, horses too can suffer sunburn, heat stroke, and dehydration. So, here are three tips to address these three issues and nip them in the bud. Read and put them into practice. Both your horse and your pocketbook will thank you.
Sunburn. Yes, horses, especially the light colored ones, can suffer from sunburn. Even those with white socks or blazes, pink noses, or hairless patches from scarring can get it. You can help them by using a fly scrim, and by applying sunblock to small, particularly sensitive areas. Of course, the best thing is to keep them out of the sun, and you can do that by providing outdoor shade, such as a run-in shed, or if you have trees on your property, making sure that there's tree shade available during all times of day.
Dehydration. Always make sure your horse has access to plenty of fresh, cool water. So if you don't have a stream running through your property, don't count on water buckets hung from the pasture fence. Instead, invest in automatic waterers. To encourage your horse to drink, provide a salt block, or you can also mist the hay with salt water. If your horse is sweating a lot, provide water laced with electrolytes, but make sure there is a second source of fresh, electrolyte-free water nearby as too many electrolytes can be harmful.
Heat stroke. Both of the tips above go a long way in preventing heat stroke. In addition, you can mist your horse - frequent mistings are far better and more effective than a single dousing from a hose. Also, make sure that your horse's coat is properly clipped. Too long, and it'll hold heat. Too short, and it may contribute to sunburn. Last but not least, know your horse and the signs of heat stroke, and pay attention to his body temperature, heart rate, and breathing rate. Signs of heat stroke can include an elevated heart rate, excessive sweating or not sweating at all, temperature that stays above 103 degrees Fahrenheit, lethargy, and signs of dehydration.
Most of all, following common sense and making sure you call your vet as soon as something seems off will help both you and your horse have a great summer. Summers are meant for fun, and I wish both you and your equine friend a happy and fun filled one.
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