Ireland’s climate means that horse owners generally do not have to worry about dealing with hot weather. But there are times when temperatures rise above average. Here are some useful tips.
- Field shelters (whether man-made or natural) are just as important in the summer months as in the winter, allowing horses to get out of the sun and also to get relief from flies and other insects.
- Provide ample fresh, clean water for both stabled horses and those turned out to grass.
- Check daily that buckets or troughs are not contaminated with bird droppings, insect larvae, or algae growth.
- Try to keep the water cool as horses may not want to drink warm water.
- Troughs and buckets in paddocks should be located in a shady area where possible.
- Ponies and foals may have trouble reaching to the bottom of a shallowly filled trough, so make sure everyone in your paddocks can reach the water.
Working your horse in hot weather
- If you must work your horses hard, try to schedule your session for early morning or late evening when it is cooler.
- After riding in hot weather, cool your horse down slowly.
- A cooling-off session in walk, allowing your horse to stretch down, should become part of your everyday schooling. Muscles are more apt to stiffen if the horse is allowed to stand, and moving muscles dissipate heat better than stationary ones
- Once you have finished working your horse and dismounted loosen the girth immediately.
Nothing like a cool down
Once finished work sponge or hose down the large blood vessels along the inside of the legs, belly, and neck. Some horses take time to get use to been hosed down so act with caution. Don’t spray the horse’s face or get water in its ears as this can upset them. Instead sponge them down gently or use a wet towel to rub their face and behind their ears.
In some cases, where horses are working extremely hard, you may want to consider using electrolytes. Electrolytes replace salts lost in sweating. They are similar to human sport drinks. You can put electrolytes in the horse’s feed, or use a large-ended syringe to squirt into the mouth. Only use electrolytes made for horses. Electrolytes made for other livestock may be unsuitable
Horses do get dehydrated especially after hard work on a hot day. Test for this by observing your horse’s flanks. If they look caved in, he is probably dehydrated. Pick up a pinch of skin along your horse’s neck. If the skin snaps back quickly, the horse is sufficiently hydrated. If the pinched area collapses slowly, the horse is dehydrated.
Horse like people get sun burnt too, especially those with the lighter coloured coats. Apply sun cream to horses with pink noses to prevent sunburn. During very hot weather, consider keeping your horses stabled during the day, and let them out at night.
How to deal with flies
Hot weather brings with it flies and other biting insects which can cause a lot of stress and upset to your horse. Try using fly sprays, masks, and fly-sheets. There are a wide range of products available on the market. But talk to someone for advice on what is best for your horse.
Field shelters also provide the necessary shelter from flies, and most horses will make good use of both natural and man-made field shelters during the summer months.