Summertime is one of my favorite times of the year. I have many fond memories of growing up on my family’s horse farm, and all the wonderful warm and sunny days that were spent there. Of course, there was a lot of work that went into taking care of more than 30 horses, especially during those warm months. Here are some important tips that we used to use when the temperatures started to climb. Hopefully you can keep these in mind when taking care of your own horse this summer. These extra steps will keep him happy, comfortable and healthy.
Make the Most of Cool Hours
One of the best ways to avoid the heat of the day is to do just that. We used to get up bright and early, turning our horses out early in the morning and letting them enjoy the cool temperatures and the dew on the grass. Then, during the heat of the day, the horses were brought back inside where they could lazily munch on hay while standing in the shade. Once the heat of the day passed, they got to go back outside for a bit more sun in the sun. Not only did this help to keep our horses cool, but it also kept their coats from bleaching out in the hot sun.
This is perhaps one of the most important things to keep in mind during the summertime heat. It’s very important to remember that your horse has lots of fresh, cool water to drink. Worried that your horse may not be getting enough water? Try the pinch test.
Lightly pinch the skin over your horse’s shoulder between your thumb and forefinger, then release it. A healthy, well-hydrated horse’s skin should immediately bounce back, whereas a horse that is dehydrated will exhibit a slow reaction, the skin slowly oozing back into position.
There are a lot of insects that plague horses during the hot summertime hours. Inch long horseflies dive down like bomber pilots, delivering painful bites and leaving nasty welts. Mosquitos swarm and threaten disease. Even hiding in the shade offers little help with pesky deer flies waiting to bite around your horse’s sensitive ears and eyes. Taking the time to spritz your horse with a liberal dose of fly repellant will help, as will rubbing his face and ears with a mitt that is treated with repellant as well.
You can also purchase face masks for your horse or, in a pinch, make a knotted veil of baling twine – tying it from one side of your horse’s halter to the other and then arranging several knotted strands so that the twine hangs down over your horse’s face. As he moves and tosses his head, the twine will help to brush the flies away. Also, don’t braid those manes and tails – your equine friend uses those to help with his own natural bug deflection as well.
Along with daily fly prevention, it’s also important to know that many of your horse’s vampiric pests can also carry diseases that can prove harmful, or even fatal, to your equine companion. Having regular veterinarian checkups and ensuring your horse is up to date on all of his shots will help to keep him happier and healthier in the long run.
By the way, you may play addicting card games while waiting for your horse vaccination is over.
It goes without saying that, during the heat of the day, you should avoid letting your horse get overheated. This means not taking him out for a strenous ride or training session when the sun is highest in the sky – save it for morning or evening hours to do your workouts. Also, if you have a horse that tends to overheat easily (whether he likes to run or gets excited around other horses, etc), be sure to take the extra steps to try and keep him calm. Do not, however, take a hot horse and run the hose over him to cool him down. Such drastic changes in temperature can have very dangerous results.
Cooling Down the Hot Horse
If you’ve been out riding or your horse has done something that has made him very hot and sweaty, take the time to walk him and cool him. Far too many people have suffered the consequences of giving a hot, sweaty horse a bucket of cold water and a nice stall to relax in. If your horse is overheated, do NOT let him stand around or drink large amounts of water, nor do you wish to shock his system by turning a cold hose on him – All of these things can lead to a condition called “colic,” which can be very dangerous for your horse.
If your horse is overheated, walk him. No matter how tired you are or how tired your horse is, keep him moving at a slow pace. If he’s allowed to drink, give him small sips from a bucket of tepid water, as opposed to icy cold and, as soon as he’s had a swallow, get him walking again. Doing so will allow your horse to slowly cool his body temperature down and will reduce the threat of colic. Additionally, if your four-legged friend is really sweaty, you may want to take a light sheet and cover him, as opposed to a heavy blanket. This will allow him to cool as he walks, without catching a chill.
Once he’s cooled down, you can take a sweat scraper to remove some of the excess sweat from his body or give him a bath with lukewarm or tepid water. Your horse is sure to appreciate this greatly, but it’s important that you make sure his body temperature is back to normal before doing so.
Taking these few easy steps will help to make your horse’s summertime just as wonderful as your own is. Before long, they will become routine and you can rest easy, knowing your horse is protected and well cared for, throughout summer and the rest of the year.