It’s horrible here. Hot. Muggy. The sun is incredibly strong. Not riding much or at least not long or hard. Just trying to keep the horses cool and comfortable (husband, too, but that’s another story).
The horses sometimes don’t have sense enough to seek out the shade in the field, but I don’t stress about that. I’ve seen them in it many times, so I know they know where it is. And I know their water intake has increased substantially.
I know horses need at least two tablespoons of salt per day (1 oz.), but I don’t want to over-feed it either, so I combine my efforts. They get a tablespoon of salt in their feed at night (I do this year round), and they have both a plain white and red trace-mineral salt block to choose from. (They prefer the red one, if you wondered.) I don’t feed electrolytes, as they’re not sweating profusely or working hard.
Fly masks are in place, and the horses are fly-sprayed at least once a day. Twice, if necessary. I worry about the effects from hoof stomping, and in the last couple weeks we’ve seen surface cracks in their hooves that weren’t there before. My farrier husband said the feet are too hard, and he’s got me putting hoof dressing on them. It’s making a huge difference already in the health of their hooves with fewer chips and cracks.
We bathe the horses when we can, using a gentle shampoo, and hose or sponge them down when they’re really sweaty. Putting a little liniment in the bucket water really helps cut through the sweat, especially if we’ve been riding.
The horses love the cold water and, as we all learned from the hot-horse research studies done prior to the Atlanta Olympics, cold-water hosing/ice isn’t going to cause your horse to colic, founder, tie-up, turn green or whatever other myth you’ve heard. It’s the best way to quickly lower their body temperature.
It always fascinates me how quickly the water I sponge on them turns warm (almost immediately) and needs to be scraped off quickly. Leaving that warm water on the horse only makes things worse. You’ve got to scrape it off and let the evaporation process start, so they will cool. I repeat the sponge-on/scrape-off scenario several times. It’s easier, though, if you can use a hose and sprayer. (Sally loves getting as close to the sprayer as possible, as if she’s trying to drink all the water coming out of it. I end up wet, too, but it’s fun.)
If they’re going back outside, we make sure their coats are dry and they have fly spray re-applied before they’re out. Flies seem to think wet coats are more temping than dry.
We keep close watch on their udder area (we have all mares) , as this area gets horribly grimy during the summer and begins to itch and cause tail rubbing, which I hate. We wash the area with a sheath cleaner and rinse it or, more often, we simply grab clear aloe gel and a plastic glove, rubbing it into the area. The gel lifts the grime, and the aloe soothes any itching.
Hot weather is hard on all of us. If we ride, I’m careful not to ride too hard. I don’t like running a lot in the heat, and I know the horses agree. Trying to stay one step ahead by practicing “preventative horse care” is my best chance at getting the horses through this miserable heat wave.