Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot!

HAPPA’s Heatwave at Shores Hey Farm, Hottest on Record

By Amanda Berry Head of Equine Operations

As Britain basked in simmering temperatures this summer, with scorching highs reaching above 30 degrees Celsius, Shores Hey Farm’s equine residents remained cool, calm and comfortable. Our Equine Care Team ensured they followed a careful management regime to ensure the equines stayed hydrated.

Summer is a great time to ride and enjoy your horse or pony, but a heatwave can prove hazardous resulting in dehydration, lethargy and general malaise. A horse’s ability to release heat from his body can be severely compromised. Horses normally sweat efficiently over a large surface area, but heat stress develops when they can’t sweat fast enough and disperse heat quickly. When a horse is exerting himself he will continue to dehydrate as the heat from his muscles is removed through sweating, heat stress results from the loss of fluids and electrolytes. A fit horse will cope better and be able to loose body heat quicker than a horse that is unfit or obese.  For heavy-coated horses, such as those with Cushing’s disease consider clipping as often as necessary throughout the year. Remember it is advisable to avoid working horses in the heat of the day.

Symptoms of Heat Stress include:

  • Heavy breathing – more than 80 breaths per minute
  • Increased sweating
  • Excessive salvation
  • Rapid pulse rate
  • Erratic heart beat or heart rate of over 60 beats per minute
  • Restlessness/lethargy
  • Refusing to move
  • Wobbly legs and or legs locking
  • Kicking out
  • High body temperature over 41 degrees C/ 106 degrees F
  • Redness of the tongue oral area – time for capillary refill is lengthened
  • Odd gait/muscle soreness
  • Neurologic signs like seizures can occur if not treated

Should you notice any of the signs that your horse is suffering from intense heat stress you would be advised to contact a Veterinary Surgeon immediately.  Heat stress needs to be combated urgently, as soon as your horse has finished an intense training exercise move him to a shaded area with plenty of airflow. Remove his tack as quickly as possible and begin to soak him in cold water. Begin with his neck and body and focus on the large veins on his neck area and thin-skinned areas in his groin. Dealing with the symptoms quickly is the main priority ensure that you have easy access to cold water and shade and in severe cases the immediate help of your Vet.

Managing Horses in a Heatwave: Follow HAPPA’s management tips to keep horses as comfortable as possible during spells of extreme temperatures.

  • Provide Fresh Cool Clean Water: – make sure that your horse has plenty of fresh, cool, clean water. Horses drink excessively in hot weather and can easily consume more than double their normal water intake, so be prepared. An average 16hh horses can drink between 30 and 70 litres (53 & 123 pints) of water per day. That’s two to five standard buckets! If you are providing clean, cool water and your horse doesn’t seem to be drinking, then try to encourage drinking by providing a salt lick. If your horse is sweating a lot then you could offer water with electrolytes to replenish lost fluids and essential minerals etc. to bring back a healthy balance.

 

  • Electrolytes: – are necessary for almost all bodily functions including nerve function, digestion and muscle contraction. Electrolytes are also necessary for urine production and are lost on a daily basis through urine and faeces. The main electrolytes are sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium and magnesium. When a horse is sweating around 9g in total of each of these minerals is lost per litre of sweat.  However, not all horses will drink a bucket laced with electrolytes, so it is a sensible idea to offer an ordinary bucket of water as a 2nd choice to ensure that he keeps drinking.

 

  • Choose a Cooler Turn-out Time: – turn out late evening or early morning to avoid the hottest part of the day. Stable horses during the day and try and allow air to circulate by natural ventilation. Provide shade if your horse lives outside 24/7. Trees are a source of shade, but remember as the sun moves then so will the shade. An open field shelter is the best source of shade.

 

  • Watch out for Sunburn: – take extra care with susceptible horses, in particular coloured horses, greys, and horses with a pink muzzle. Apply a high factor sun cream or preferably a sun block. Sunburn can be quite nasty if left untreated. Prevention is much better than cure!

 

  • Flying Insects: – hot weather also brings horse flies, and other flying insects on mass, so don’t forget to consider using insect repellents and possibly fly masks and sheets for added protection.

 

Remember, you know your horse or pony better than anyone and will be quick to notice any changes in his usual condition or temperament. If you are at all concerned then contact your Veterinary Surgeon for advice.

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