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Play It Cool And Beat The Heat

Whether your summers are characterized by sizzling heat and hot dry winds or sultry airless days with steamy humidity, there is a very real possibility that your horse could develop "heat stress".  A few simple precautions can help your horse beat the heat.  People and animals living close to the equator know that the best time to work or hunt is during the cooler morning and late afternoon hours.  So arrange to ride or work your horse early or late and give him a siesta during the hottest part of the day.  If this is impossible and you have to work your horse during  those hot mid day hours, give him a break by not exercising him as strenuously as usual; and let him take frequent rests.  Offer small amounts of water periodically.  Be sure to walk him for a while after any exercise, so that he cools down slowly.  That old phraze "ridden hard and put away wet" is definitely a bad idea!


If your horse resides in a pasture with shaded areas (shadows cast by either trees or buildings) where he can seek shelter at will, and if he has an ample supply of fresh clean water, the risk of heat stress will be greatly reduced.  If you keep your horse stabled in a barn, you will have to plan ahead and be pro active in avoiding heat stress by opening doors and windows and perhaps adding barn fans to keep a breeze circulating.


Reduce the risk of heat stress or heat stroke by knowing what signs to look for in your horse.  If your horse seems unduly tired or lethargic, is having difficulty breathing, seems weak or listless, is experiencing diarrhea or colic, or shows any other signs of distress, such as rapid heartbeat or not sweating at all; it is time to consider the possiblity that he has become a victim of heat stress.


Take action immediately, since these early signs can rapidly progress to life threatening symptoms.  Call your veterinarian ASAP and in the interim, move your horse to a cooler, shady spot, and spray cool water on his feet and legs, gradually moving higher on his body.  After your veterinarian examines your horse, he may recommend ice packs applied to areas where large veins surface and may possibly "drench", or administer enemas to the animal in an effort to reduce his body temperature.  A horse's rectal temperature is normally around 101 degrees Farenheit, and if the horse's temperature rises to 104 degrees Farenheit for any length of time, this could be deadly.


Common sense measures for beating the heat apply to both you and your horse.  So stay out of the intense heat,  limit your activities to the cooler hours of the day, and above all; stay hydrated.


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