Dear Mother Nature,
While I have always had a deep appreciation for the wonders you offer to us, I can’t help but notice that you may have forgotten to turn off the oven when you went on vacation. I don’t mean to complain, but the novelty of receiving no rain for two months is best enjoyed without 100+ degree temperatures….
It’s hot. I don’t just mean, “Gee I better ride in the morning” hot, I mean 85 degrees at midnight hot. I would complain more except that I just got off the phone with Bobby Beech down at National Bridle in Tennessee, and they are enjoying even hotter temperatures down there. I have Facebook friends all over, and the current topic of conversation appears to be lack of rain (except in Minnesota) and excess of heat. While commiserating with each other isn’t very productive, it does open up conversations about what to do during this impossible weather. Here are some tips to helping your horses survive the heat wave; some are no brainers, and some I had never even heard of until this current heat wave hit.
- Hauling: Haul early or late, and be very conscious of the temperature in the trailer. Those aluminum and older style horse trailers can become Easy Bake ovens once the sun is up. Use a lot of bedding if you absolutely must haul when it is warm; this will help prevent heat founder. Heat founder (I had not ever heard of this) can occur when the heat from the asphalt radiates up through the trailer floor, cooking your horses’ hooves while they stand captive. I recommend bringing water from home, since they will be more likely to drink familiar water. Now is not the time to argue with your horse about expanding his or her palate.
- Find the cool spot during the day. It might be in the barn, it might be under some trees. Give the horse the best chance for staying cool. If using a fan, give the horse a choice of standing in or away from the flow of the fan. If using a giant barn aisle fan, CHECK THE DIRECTION OF THE WIND. I have walked into three different barns with giant barn fans facing the wrong way. If you position that fan to fight the natural air flow, you are just bottling up all that nasty hot air into your barn. Switching the fan’s direction can drop your barn temperature as much as 15 degrees.
- A good rinse is a great way to cool down a hot horse, but water can be an insulator. On an overheated horse, either use a sponge repeatedly, or use a sweat scraper to clear the excess water. You are trying to mimic the natural process of sweating to cool the horse—too much water collecting in a horse’s coat can actually make the horse hotter, especially in a humid environment.
- Provide loose salt at all times (it goes without saying horses should have water at all times). Too much sweating with too much drinking can result in PH imbalances unless the horse can access salt.
- I prefer free choice first cutting hay, and I have noticed that my horses stay cooler during the summer and warmer during the winter when they have consistent access to forage. While this isn’t a requirement, I wanted to throw it out there in case someone is doing ‘everything right’ and still having problems.
- A great idea from a friend is to re-use empty bottles by filling them with water, freezing them, removing the lid and dropping them into water buckets and tanks. The ice keeps the water cool, and as it melts the horses get an addition of fresh cold water into their buckets. I’ve seen horses actually hold their noses an inch above their water, as if using it for a mini-air conditioner. Just remember to remove the lids, or a horse with agile lips and teeth may do it for you.
The heat can be beat (beaten is more correct, but beat sounds better). Ride early or late and always ask yourself if that horse show or trail ride is really THAT important. If so, go and have fun, but take every precaution possible to keep your horses cool and healthy during this crazy heat wave. What clever and unusual ideas do you have to keep your horses comfortable while Momma Nature cooks us all?