Keeping your horse cool, safe, and healthy this summer
We've covered some great tips to keeping yourself sunburn, bug bite, and heat stroke free this summer, so now we will move on to ways to do the same for your horse! It's common misconseption that summer heat problems only effect horses in work, and I want to clear that up first and foremost!
1. Sun Protection: Protecting our horses is just as important as protecting ourselves from harmful UV Rays. Whether you are saving your horses coat from bleaching out, or pretoecting the super sensitive pink skin around eyes and noses, there are a lot of ways you can do it.
- UV Shades and fly masks: There are many fly mask companies now adays that offer UV Protection in their fly masks. Even if your horse doesnt have pink skin on its face, it's a good idea to protect their eyes.
- UV fly sheets: As with masks, a lot of the sheet companies have come out with UV Protective sheets as well.
- Shade/Stalls: Make sure your horse has a lot of options to get out of the sun. Trees and run in sheds outside must be available. If you dont have that option, your next best bet is keeping them in a stall. I am all for turnout 24/7, but it's not fair if your horse cant get out of the heat or the sun.
- Sun Screens: Especially for the pink skin horses, sun screen is a great way of protecting them. There are several companies that have come out with horse-only sun screen, but you may also use people sunscreen too!
2. Hydration! Water is the single most important thing horses need when it's hot out. Always make sure your horse has plenty of clean, fresh water infront of him. If your horse isnt drinking enough, or you are going to a show or event where the water is strange, add some apple juice or gatorade. Some other tips:
- Add electrolyte powder to your horses grain every day to help replenish the nutrients lost while sweating.
- Soak your horses grain. There are many benefits to soaking a horses grain, but just one of them helps ensure your horses is taking in at least some water every day.
-Keep a tube of electrolytes on hand at all times. You never know when you may need it.
3. Bathing: Whenever you bathe your horse, it is important to start at their feet and legs, then work your way up. This gives them a chance to get use to the water temp. It is also important to let your horse dry off in the shed. The water on your horse heats up faster in the sunshine than their skin does, so hosing them down and turning them out can actually make them hotter than they originially were.
4. Keep summer work simple, and work at appropriate hours. As we talked about in part one, its not comfortable for us to ride when its 105, imagine what it's like for our horses. If you must ride during the hot parts of the day, keep your rides short and to the point.
5. Stall bound horses: though your horses may be out of the sun, depending on the barn set up, they may be hotter in a barn than outside. Keeping barn doors open, and stall windows open will provide a cool breeze, even when the wind isnt blowing. Also, hanging box fans in each stall is a great, refreshing way for your horse to beat the heat.
Have any tips of your own? Feel free to post them in the comment box! Happy trails!
Keeping yourself cool, safe, and healthy this summer
Well its mid march, and here in Central Texas, we're already knocking on 90* door. As someone who has suffered heat stroke before, I can promise you it is not fun, and is a very dangerous thing especially when dealing with horses. This is the first of a two part blog series with tips to staying cool this summer. Part one, for the rider, because lets face it, if you arent healthy, you cant take care of your horse! Part two will be tips to keeping our four leggers comfortable and safe.
1. Make room in your grooming kit for some much needed summer essential:
- Sun Screen: I dont even need to go into detail on how important it is to protect ourselves from harmful UV rays. If skin cancer isnt bad enough, no one likes sun burn. I prefer the spray kind because they are really easy to use, they dry quickly, and dont leave an oily residue. There are plenty of sun screens available specifically for your face as well.
- Bug Spray: Even with the All Natural movement finally makiing way to horse products, most fly sprays are still harmful if it gets on your skin. I can't say Im not guilty of endulging in the power of Repel X, but I can say Off is a much better option.
- ReUsable Water Bottle - Brita makes on that is great for leaving at the barn. You can have filtered water direct from the nearest barn hose!
2. Hydration, Hydration, Hydration:
I can't stress this enough. When you sweat, you lose water and important nutrients your body needs to survive. When it's hot, you sweat. It's that simple. As a traveling trainer, I leave an ice chest in the back of my truck with water and gatorade. If you needed another reason to cross soda out of your diet, it's not going to help you hydrate, and can actually dehydrate you quicker. Kensington products make a water bottle holder that you can clip right to your saddle, excellent for trail riding! If you are hardcore, Camel Backs can not be beat. Make sure you drink lots of fluids at all times, but especially before and after each ride.
3. Keep Benadryl on hand:
Warm weather brings out bees, wasps, hornets, and all those other fabulous flying, stinging things. Even if you arent allergic, its not a bad idea to keep some benadryl on hand incase someone else may need it.
4. Sun Protective Riding Apparel:
- You will not catch me outside without a hat of some-sort on in the summer, but riding in a baseball cap isnt the smartest of all ideas. Fortunatly, we have options! Charles Owens SP8 helmet offers the same great protection you would expect from CO, with a larger, wider brim that offers more protection from the sun. Equivisor also has a great large visor that attaches to any helmet and offers superior protection.
- Long sleeves in the summer may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you're thinking of ways to stay cool, but companys like Ariat, Kerrits, Irideon, and Horseware Ireland an have great, super breathable, lightweight, and UV protective long sleeve shirts available. Most of the shirts are a mesh like material under your arms, and have breath panels too. Magelan, a company noted for their fishing apparel, also make great lightweight shirts that keep you cool. Since wrap collars and in, and strap collars are out, all those coolmax shirts work great too! Keeping the extra sun off of you with an extra layer of clothing actually keeps you cooler than less clothes and more sun. Try it if you dont believe me!
- Sun Glasses. Your skin isnt the only thing that suffers from UV Rays. Though I would love a pair of nice super expensive glasses, I find that the $10.00 gas station glasses work just fine, and for the amount of glasses I lose, or destroy, its much cheaper to replace.
5. Choose your rides and riding times wisely. Obviously its coolest early in the morning, or late at night. Try to ride during those times. I personally dont work horses if it's over 100* except in extreme situations, and even then, I try to keep the rides as short and to the point as possible. If you can only do one or two rides a week when it's cooler out, try to keep your real workouts to those days. Nice easy 15-20 minute hacks followed by a long and low trail ride are great when it's super hot. Your horse still gets his work out, you still get saddle time, and neither one of you ends up a lathered, sweaty mess.
Now that you've got some tips (and feel free to comment with your own!) lets talk Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke. Like I said before, this is something I have dealt with before, and it usually doesnt his me while Im working a horse, but usually as soon as my feet hit the ground after a ride. It comes on with light headness/feeling like Im going to pass out, nausea, burning up, dehydration, and complete weakness. I often ride alone, so handing my horse to someone isnt usually an option either, so needless to say, I try to nip this one in the bud before it even happens. I usually wait to dismount until I am at the barn, just in case I need to let go of my horse, I can throw him in a stall. If I feel it coming on, I get as close to a hose as I can and start hosing myself and my horse off. Anything I can do to cool myself down, and untacking/cooling my horse down as quickly as possible. Heat exhaustion can knock you out for the rest of the day, and once it's happened once, you're more likely to get it again. Heat Stroke can be life threatening. If you think someone is suffering from either, cool them down with a wet rag, a fan, laying on the cool barn floor, and call 911. Here are two links to WebMD explaining more about Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke.
Stay tuned for Part Two of the series, full of tips to keep your horses happy and healthy this summer. Thanks for reading! Happy Trails!
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