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How To Keep Horses Safe & Comfortable In Hot Weather

DATE

June 16, 2022

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Summer is here and although horse care is usually easier and more enjoyable, there are still a few welfare issues we need to consider. Many horses will find hot weather uncomfortable, but the good news is there is plenty we can do to help keep them safe, healthy and comfortable.

Our Loan Scheme Support Officer, Jeanette Orrell, has put together this handy list of tips to help keep horses safe and comfortable in hot weather.

Water

Your horse will obviously need plenty of water during the hot summer days, a constant supply of clean and fresh water is essential to help prevent dehydration and prevent heatstroke. Water has a key role in your horse’s digestive system. If your horse doesn’t have access to any, or not enough water it can increase the risk of colic. On average a horse can drink up to 50 litres of water a day in hot weather.

Also be aware that buckets of water in the stable or shelter can become warm and unpalatable if left to stand for too long, so you may need to change them more often than usual to keep them fresh.

Safe Environment

Turnout has many benefits for both horses and owners.  Regular turnout allows your horse to socialise, unwind and exercise in a natural environment all of which are key to a happy horse.  Having your horse turned out as much as possible also means fewer daily chores and a bit of a rest for owners.

Fields should be checked daily to ensure they are safe and suitable for horses.  Fields should be clear of rubbish, machinery and other dangerous items that could cause injury.  Unsafe areas should be fenced off if necessary.

Fencing should also be inspected daily to make sure they remain safe and secure.

Shelter

Shelter is very important for horses during the summer months and adequate protection from the hot weather should be made. Horses require protection from the heat, sun and flies as well as the cold, wet and wind.  Shelter in the summer months should not be neglected and just because the weather is nice does not mean your horse does not need some form of shelter.

If your horse is turned out, a field shelter provides the best protection from the sun. The shade provided by trees and hedges may provide a good substitute, but remember that the shade will move with the sun so there may be certain times of the day when it isn’t accessible to your horse. Stabling horses through the hottest parts of the day is an option to consider.

Sun Protection

Sunburn occurs most often on horses with light-coloured coats, horses with white blazes or pink noses are highly prone to it. Without protection, sun exposure to these areas can lead to sunburn. The skin will turn red it may blister or peel and is sensitive to the touch like in humans.

Although you can’t keep your horse stabled 24/7, there are a few things that you can do to help minimise the chances of your horse getting sunburned.

Regularly apply a high SPF sunscreen to the muzzle and any white markings on your horse.

Time management is a key component to keeping your horse safe from sun injuries. Start by regulating the time your horse is out in the bright sunlight. Plan your horses outdoor hours so that they coincide with times of lower sun exposure, such as early morning, evening or overnight.

If you can’t manage your horse’s time in the sun and you have limited or no shade in your field, consider using a sun protection fly rug and a face mask with UV protection for additional defence against harmful sun rays.

Treating Sunburn

If your horse gets mild sunburn on his muzzle or face, apply a soothing ointment such as aloe vera. Then put a heavy coating of sunscreen over that to minimise further damage. Make sure your horse has access to plenty of fresh, clean water – hydration helps heal damaged skin. If the symptoms are severe or don’t resolve, consult your vet.

Flies

Warm weather and longer days mean summer – but also flies!

Every horse reacts differently to flies – some aren’t bothered while othitcers will do everything to avoid them, and some have a nasty reaction to bites. Look out for: Behavioural changes – tail swishing, ear flicking, mane/head shaking, kicking at the flanks, biting at the skin and a general increase in agitation.

The saliva from the bite of Culicoides midges and potentially the black fly can cause an allergic reaction in some horses resulting in the condition known as Sweet Itch. Intense scratching can occur to the extent that some horses will rub themselves raw.

There are many fly repellent sprays and insecticides available to buy. Thin fly sheets and masks can help greatly and if you can keep your horse in during the day and out at night then their exposure to flies can be reduced.

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