It’s that time of year again- hot weather! And that means more danger for our equine friends. Shirley put together this quick guide on what you need to be aware of when it comes to keeping your horse happy, healthy and not too hot this summer. 

Summer is a great time to ride. Kids are out of school and trails are clear of ice but summer can also be much harder on our horses. In order for them to reach their full potential in terms of performance, they need to be properly taken care of, especially in an area like  Colorado. Many people not from here don’t realize just how hot it can get. Sure, the Denver metro area gets warm but it gets blazing hot across the state during the summer.

The first thing to remember is that in hot environments (and especially one as dry as ours) horses can sweat out as much as 1-4 gallons in a little over an hour. Still, water should be given in quick bursts and not all at once as that can cause other unwanted issues. In addition, horse metabolism levels decrease and heat stress causes less intake of food which can result in drastic weight loss especially muscle protein. Keeping track of a horse’s feeding pattern during hot weather is crucial for you to notice any slight change that needs to be rectified. If your horse doesn’t perk up and start eating after some time to cool off or after you offer them their favorite snack you should contact your veterinarian immediately.

Horses do adapt to hot areas after some time, but this does not rule out the need to monitor them and provide the required environment for their welfare. To reduce the effects of electrolyte imbalance you could provide loose salt to them to encourage them to drink water. You can also clip horses with long hair coats to enhance cooling, let them work at cooler times of the day such as early in the morning, late in the afternoon and at night and avoid riding them as much as possible to prevent heat stress.

If you really want to ride this Colorado summer, adjust your schedule such that you ride it at cool times of the day, ride the horse in shade, do not overwork the horse beyond its fitness rate and allow breaks so it can regain its respiratory rate, provide cool and clean water to it frequently as it works. For horses to survive in the dry Colorado climate and keep healthy, they should constantly be exposed to water. Spray or sponge their head, back, neck, legs and rump with cool water and scrape it off. Scraping is important because if left on the horse, the water might increase its body temperature by creating an insulating layer. Repeat until they are cool.

Adding ice to the drinking and bathing water has been proven to be safe and beneficial to horses since it lowers body temperatures and heart rates after heavy exercise. Symptoms of a horse experiencing heat stroke include muscle weakness, collapse, dry mucous membranes and whining, and distress. The best cure is immediate cooling. Allowing a horse a few swallows of cold water after every few minutes cures the stroke and heat stress as well. Summer is a hectic time in Colorado, but you can make it a safe time for your horses.