Summer is one of the most popular times of the year to ride, with the kids being out of school and competitions happening every weekend, it is a great time to spend with your horse. I devote most of the summer traveling to clinics and competitions, always horseback and soaking up every minute of it. However, with this fun season, it is important to be vigilant with our horse care. We need to take extra precautions in the summer heat. Just as we need to drink more water, wear fewer layers and apply sunscreen, we should also be aware of our horse’s needs in the heat. Here are a few important areas to be mindful of this summer.
On an average day, a horse needs 5 to 10 gallons of water, but in the summer heat this number can drastically increase. For a horse being worked every day, their water intake can even double. Make sure your horse always has access to clean, fresh water! In the summer, a bucket of water will heat up in the sun, and be less appealing to your horse. Be proactive and provide fresh water whenever possible. If your horse is sweating, consider providing him with an electrolyte. There are many options ranging from salt blocks to additives for their water. Electrolytes can help your horse retain water and maintain a proper nutrient balance. However, if you do offer electrolytes, be mindful of how much your horse is consuming. Some horses do not like the taste of electrolytes added to their water and may stop drinking altogether. To prevent possible dehydration, always provide an option for fresh electrolyte-free water for your horse. Also be mindful that too much can be harmful, if you notice excessive consumption remove your salt block or the water with electrolytes added.
Change your turnout routine for the summer months. Avoid putting your horse out to pasture during the hottest parts of the day. If you have to turn them out during these times, be sure they have access to shade or shelter to stay out of direct sun. Don’t forget to pay extra attention to any lighter colored horses or those with white on their faces. Many horses can be prone to sunburn in the summer. Avoid sunburn by turning your lighter horses out to pasture later in the day, or applying horse-safe sunscreen.
If your horse spends his time in a stall, be sure there is good air flow. Buy a fan to use for the summer months, be sure it is rated for agricultural use. A fan in poor condition can be a safety risk. Also be careful of where you position the cords for your fan. Check that the cords are out of reach of all horses, both in and out of stalls. Further, be sure that cords are kept away from any water sources.
Whether you’re at home or on the road it is important to be aware of the heat. I spend most of the summer riding and traveling to clinics and I am always taking precautions when it comes to the heat. Before loading a horse into the trailer, I always like to hose them off thoroughly. This helps keep them cool and comfortable for the ride. Try to travel during the coolest part of the day whenever possible. If you are traveling a long distance, set aside time to stop and offer your horse water every hour or two. Pay attention to the temperature in your trailer. Before loading your horse, open windows and vents to let the air circulate. Note that trailers with darker interiors will be hotter than lighter colored trailers. Pay attention to this when you are purchasing a trailer. If you do most of your traveling in the winter consider buying trailer with a darker interior, but if you mostly travel in the summer aim for the lighter colors. Additionally, be aware of the heat rising through the trailer floor. Rubber mats and shavings can help subdue the heat radiating up from the road. Once you arrive at your destination, allow plenty of time for your horse to rest and rehydrate before riding. Remember that riding in a trailer takes energy out of your horse and can cause fatigue. Giving them some downtime will ensure they are refreshed and in the best shape to ride in any clinic or competition you may be traveling to.
Last, but definitely not least, alter your workout routine. Avoid riding during the hottest parts of the day. If you have not been riding frequently throughout the spring season, as the temperature has been slowly rising, you may need to help your horse adjust to a more frequent riding routine. Start with short, less vigorous workouts and slowly increase the length and intensity of your rides. Always take your time warming your horse up and be sure to cool your horse down completely before unsaddling and putting him back out to pasture. Be sure to offer your horse water before, after and during your ride when possible.
I hope you found these warm weather tips helpful. Keep riding smart and have fun with your horse this summer. After all, if you aren’t having fun then you’re missing the whole point!