∴ Now that the moderate temperatures of spring have given way to scorching summer heat, everyone is trying to stay cool. At Oak Haven Acres, we know that the soaring temperatures in North Carolina can be uncomfortable for animals as well. With the help of one of our resident veterinarians, Dr. Kyle, we implement a summer program that keeps our horses safe and happy during the summer months. Keep Your horse healthy this summer by following some of Dr. Kyle’s horse summer safety tips:
• Made In The Shade
Horses love spending most of their time grazing and running outside. When the sun turns up the summer heat, make sure your four-footed friend has plenty of shade. Fortunately, our fields have many large shade trees that help shield our horses from the blazing sun. However, shade changes with the movement of the sun, so we have a large lean-to shelter to give the animals some respite.
• Fresh Air
Air movement often brings some relief in stifling barns and stalls, where the stale, humid air can be unbearable. Consider installing a large industrial fan in the building to keep your horses comfortable. Be sure that the fan and cords are safely out of the curious animal’s reach. If you have several horses, you might need more than one fan.
• A Splash Of Water
Like humans, horses enjoy a refreshing mist of water on their skin to keep it cool and hydrated. You can buy a mister, or you can use the mist setting on your garden hose to lightly spray your horse with fresh water. As the mist evaporates, it will cool her skin and keep her comfortable during sweltering summer days. Try to mist your horses several times a day.
• Keep Your Horse’s Thirst Quenched
When your horse gets hot, he sweats more and loses a lot of moisture and electrolytes from his body. Ensure that your equine friends have an ample supply of fresh, clean water. Replenish the water in their trough often, so it does not get dirty and stagnant.
• Add Electrolytes
Dr. Kyle recommends that you talk to your vet about supplementing your animals’ electrolytes. These vital nutrients are necessary for them to stay healthy; however, too many electrolytes can be harmful. Your vet can advise which electrolytes your horse needs, as well as how much. You will also need to provide another trough of plain water. Observe your horse’s water intake, to ensure she does not get dehydrated in the heat.
• Limit Your Horse’s Activities
When the sun is the hottest during the day, limit your horse’s activities. She will be less susceptible to heat exhaustion and dehydration, warns Dr. Kyle.
• Keep It Short
Could you imagine how miserable you would feel standing out in the field on a sweltering July day, wearing a full-length fur coat? You can get a glimpse of how your equine friend feels in the heat with her shaggy coat. During the summer months, keep your horse’s coat groomed short—especially if he is a long-haired variety. Do not get it too short, because the animal’s fur protects him from the sun’s rays.
• Avoid Sunburns
Did you know that horses can get painful sunburns? Pale or white horses are especially vulnerable to sunburn. While the horse’s fur shields them from some of the sun, Dr. Kyle suggests that you apply a little sunscreen on bald patches or pink noses. Of course, the best way to prevent equine sunburn is to keep your friend out of the sun during peak hours of heat.
• Watch For Signs Of Heat Stroke
As our horses’ best friends, we should be familiar with their normal range of body temperature and breathing. If your horse gets overheated, he may experience heat stroke. Watch for signs such as lethargy, fever, excessive (or lack of) sweating, clammy skin, and signs of dehydration. Get your horse to a cool stall and contact your vet immediately if you suspect heat stroke.