Top Tips for Keeping Your Horse Cool in the Summer Heat
Give me brisk air and varying temperatures of spring or fall any day. I’d rather add a layer than faint from overheating during summer. I am one of the few people who despise summer weather. It’s true and I’m not sorry. Where friends of mine pine for days of sweating on the beach and baking in the sun, I imagine frizzy hair, a wall of humidity, bloating, and the inability to ride my horse often. Will I risk being a bad mom to admit too that I struggle managing my work and riding schedule with three children out of school?
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Summer is TOUGH. Dare I say I’m glad it’s almost over? Insect bites and sweet itch is the least of my worries.
Most equestrians struggle with keeping their horses happy and healthy when the heat rises, but it’s even more important when your horse struggles with anhidrosis or “no sweat”. Keeping my horse cool has become the utmost priority.
I knew when I bought Ferrous he had difficulty with his adrenal glands. Some years he would sweat profusely and others he would start off okay then slowly stop sweating as the humidity continued. He was on a supplement but it never made much of a difference.
As a result of trial and error I found several ways to keep him cool when the weather was too intense for us. Overheating is a serious concern for us and something that led me to stop blanketing him over the winters here in New Jersey.
All horses are different and there is no perfect solution. Apologies, I want to give you the best possible solution. Unfortunately, what works for one animal may not work for another, and it can also change year to year. I’m nothing if not honest with you, thus the options (in no particular order)!
- Night Turnout. First, if your horse gets overheated easily or is lethargic and not sweating enough in summer, stable them with fans during the day with fans and turn them out at night when the weather is cooler.
- Keep exercise light and early in the morning or late evening, when the temperature falls a little.
- Supplements. There are a number of supplements on the market that are intended to increase or activate your horse’s cooling system. One AC is generally a favorite although I will say I have not had any success. However, this has worked well for others!
- Electrolytes. When horses need to keep cool they sweat. To encourage replenishment of their bodies and rehydrate them giving an electrolyte is essential. You can find an electrolyte as a supplement, paste, and I also love to give Ferrous a little Gatorade after exercise. Hint: he loves it!
- Himalayan Rock Salt, Salt Licks, etc. The rock salt provides essentials nutrients but also stimulates drinking by making them thirsty. Always make sure to provide as much fresh water as possible.
- Guinness. An old wives’ tale that associates the fermentation of the hops to activate the adrenal glands and increase sweating. It does build over time in the system and many horses love the taste.
- Cooling Blanket. Some horses benefit from fly sheets to protect them against those nasty, mean flies. These are intended to be wet and lower the core body temperature of your horse in the stall or trailer where it can get darn hot.
I’ve used all of the options above, and some work better than others. This year I was ecstatic to learn of the Performa Ride cooling sheet and got on the wait list since they sold out within 24 hours! I found that Ferrous cooled more quickly and stayed cool longer when I would wet him in the wash stall and then apply the wet blanket on him in his stall. It’s been so wonderful for my anxiety and worry that he would overheat.
Along with a salt lick in the stall, I also keep a little “bar” of Guinness and dye-free Gatorade next to my tack box for meals and post-exercise. I did add rock salt to one water bucket last year (always leaving an option for fresh water) and found Ferrous didn’t want to drink the salted water. Can’t blame him as I wouldn’t love it either.