1. Save riding and strenuous activity for early morning or late evening hours
Morning and evening are the coolest hours of the day when the sun is lowest in the sky. This makes it the safest time to ride during an extreme heat wave for those of us who are not lucky enough to have a climate controlled arena.
Some people prefer to put their horses in stalls in this heat and give them fans. That’s great if you can do it. If you are like me and don’t have enough stalls to go around and no fans in the stalls you do have, the best option is a shaded run in. Make sure it is well ventilated and not too close to standing water or marshy areas that might attract insects and mosquitoes. I prefer to put my run ins on higher ground to keep them dry and let them catch a nice breeze. A breeze also helps keep the insects at bay.
3. Fly protection
I recommend fly masks. If your horse has sensitive skin he may need a full fly sheet. However, if you have a horse that is particularly destructive and takes offence to such things, it is best to just let them be. Otherwise you’ll find yourself replacing all that fly gear every week and that adds up fast. I stock up on fly masks at the beginning of the summer and once they’ve all been lost or destroyed that’s it. No more fly masks until next summer. It rarely happens that we run through them all though. Mind you, I don’t have any horses with sensitive skin or allergies of any kind so if they go without a fly mask it is not actually harmful to their health.
Sometimes with a destructive horse if you get them a basic model that has no ears or nose cover they tolerate it better. That is the only kind Moose tolerates. I can’t stand it but she loves it. She tore through her nice fly mask already this spring. Fortunately for her I found this one in some dusty corner of the tack room and she took a shine to it. I think it’s hideous but she likes it and actually leaves it on, so who am I to argue?
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4. Give your horse plenty of electrolytes to encourage water intake
The best way I’ve found is to give your horse a bowl of free choice loose salt. It’s cheap, efficient, and far easier for them than licking it off a block. It helps encourage water intake and provides the sodium for their diet. I don’t like measuring it out for them because I have never heard of a horse overdosing themselves on salt and in this heat they need all the electrolytes they can get. I have found that horses are the best judges of their own needs in many cases. Also keep tubes of formulated electrolytes on hand in case of emergency if you’re at a show, on a trail ride, or even just riding at home. You never want to be without electrolytes in this heat.
5. Unlimited fresh water is vital in this heat
There are many people who will tell you that you have to give horses water in measured buckets so you know how much they are drinking. But I have found that this often does more harm than good, especially in this heat. What if he runs out while you’re at work or school? Is lugging all that water around good for you in this heat?
I have never had a problem telling if my horses are drinking or not. There is, of course, the skin pinch test. There are also some other sure sign to watch out for.
- Is your horse’s manure the same consistency it always is?
- Is his urine unusually dark?
- Is he unusually lethargic?
This is where really knowing your horse and his normal baseline behavior will be important. Changes in behavior can often be the first signs that something is medically wrong.
I prefer to use automatic waterers or, when they are out in the pasture, allow them to drink from a pond so I know
they never run out of water.
6. Unlimited forage
This may seem like an odd one, but it is very important. Horses were made to graze and have food in their stomachs at all times. Having forage available at all times allows their bodies to function efficiently and helps them cope with extreme temperatures (be it hot or cold) better.