We love the summer, and so does your horse - if you protect it from the heat, that is. As with us humans, the sun can do damage to our four-legged companions, something you have to avoid at all costs. In this blog post, we share our best tips on the topic, so that even the hottest days can go down cool.
For us humans, it is generally easier to deal with the heat. Horses do not tolerate it as well as people, since horses overheat up to 10 times faster than us: They have a larger percentage of active muscles. Once they are moving, they produce heat and the horse sweats. You should be especially careful on those hot and sticky summer days, which are particularly hard on horses.
How does this affect training your horse?
It is very important that the rider does not use his own perception of the heat as an indicator whether it is still ok to work the horse or not. Generally speaking, it is better to work the horses in the morning or evening.
If you can only ride at noon, don't work your horse in the outdoor arena: Ride in the forest, go to the lake or have an easy indoor session.
We also recommend ground work as an alternative.
Adjust the training to the temperature: walk more, have regular breaks and avoid long canters.
In general, keep your training sessions shorter.
Horses and Sweat: Electrolytes are important
In cold weather, the horse produces about 20 liters of sweat during a hard training session. If it's hot and sticky, this can go up to 25-30 liters – the same amount the horse is sweating on a particularly tough show day. During an endurance ride in summer, the horse produces about 35 liters of sweat.
Horses lose lots of electrolytes when sweating which can cause the body’s water balance to change drastically as well as pH-value changes in the blood. The interactions of nerves and muscle cells are strongly dependent on the electrolyte and water balance.
The performance of a healthy horse already suffers up to 20 percent when losing only 5 to 10 liters of sweat.
Give your horse access to salt immediately in order for it to restore any sodium loss.
A Horsey Summer: Some Basic Facts
Even if you don't ride or work your horse, it needs at least 10 grams of sodium per day, which is the equivalent of two leveled teaspoons. If you increase the workload, you can raise the sodium intake of your horse to up to four teaspoons a day, but spread it over several meals during the day. On hot and sticky days, you might even have to supplement more sodium.
If you work your horse harder than usual or during heat waves, you should not only pay attention to the sodium loss, but take the loss of other electrolytes into consideration. Electrolytes (including sodium) are minerals that regulate the amount of blood in the body, and muscle and nerve functions. They also balance the blood pH.
The most important electrolytes are sodium and chloride. Other electrolytes include potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, iron, copper and manganese.
If your horse’s muscles start trembling and / or cramping, you should give your horse an electrolyte mixture immediately. You will also have to provide salt at the same time. Very often "over the counter" electrolyte mixtures do not contain enough sodium to meet the horse's needs.
When horses are deficient in electrolytes, they usually refuse to drink. This is a protective mechanism of the body to avoid further loss of liquids and electrolytes. Make sure that your horse drinks enough.
Horses outside : provide shelter
If your horse spents lots of time out on pasture, make sure to provide shelters and plenty of shade. Make sure that there is enough shade for every horse even for those at the bottom end of the herd’s hierarchy. If you cannot provide enough shelter, it is better to put the horse back into the stables and let it out to graze only after sunset.
In addition to shade and shelter, easy access to fresh water in sufficient quantities is key. Horses should be able to drink whenever they want. A horse normally drinks between 20 and 40 liters of water per day, but during heat waves this amount can double.
Horse colors : Different coats, different requirements
During the summer months, your horse’s coat color can make a difference. Bright horses easily sunburn, especially on their soft, pink noses. Put sunscreen on them, but buy a product without any harmful ingredients.
If your horse does not have a lot of hair on its head, you should protect the front head from the sun. Intense sun rays may cause the brain to swell, which can have serious consequences on your horse's health. The horse may start staggering or not be able to get up or even start convulsing.
In general, dark colored horses overheat much faster than grey horses, since the dark coats attract more sun radiation.
If you see your horse panting heavily, sweating hard in the field or if you notice dry mucous membranes, you should act immediately. Take your horse out of the sun. Spray the horse's legs with lukewarm water, and check if the cardiovascular system calms down.
Do not use cold water. Overheated muscles can go into shock and start contracting uncontrollably. The horse's heart doesn't handle sudden temperature changes very well, so you should rather use lukewarm water. Start with the legs and work your way up.
Protection from flies and other annoying insects
Just some basics about how to protect your horse from insects. First, let's talk about bug spray.
If you are using bug spray, always read the label and check the ingredient list. Many bug sprays contain harmful ingredients that can harm you and your horse. Use natural fly protection: 100% natural horse care products only.
If you do not want to rely on chemical bug sprays and you do not have a 100% natural product on hand, we recommend that you use fly-blankets and/or fly-masks. They provide reliable protection against all sorts of insects and they don't harm the horse's liver and system as toxins would.
Conclusion: A long, enjoyable summer is waiting for you and your horse. But please pay attention to your horse's wellbeing. Too hot to work your horse? Maybe go on a hack in the woods. Also, always protect your horse from bugs. We recommend blankets and masks as well as natural horse care products.
Be back next week, greetings from Switzerland, Nicole