The main priority of caring for horses in the summer is to make sure they are well hydrated and kept out of the midday summer sun. Water is top of the list, as a horses body is made up of 70% water. Horses need access to fresh, clean water at all times and this is especially important during summer.
Water is vital for fluid balance, much needed for exercise and also helps digestion. Did you know studies have shown that restricting a horse’s water intake for as little as two hours greatly increases the chance of colic?. Horses drink around 45 litres of water a day and this can increase by up to 40% during warm weather. Excessive sweating or diarrhoea can cause your horse to become dehydrated, you can check for this by doing a pinch test.
Pinch the skin in the middle of the horse’s neck and pull it gently outwards, then release. If your horse isn’t dehydrated, the skin will snap back into place straight away. Skin that takes 2-5 seconds to return to normal indicates mild dehydration, while skin that takes 10-15 seconds shows severe dehydration. Other signs of dehydration or heat stress include sunken eyes, a tucked up appearance, heavy breathing and a rapid pulse.
This is very close second to water when it comes to summer horse care. A lot of times you’ll see horses grazing out in the blazing sun but they do have access to shade when they start getting too hot or feel like a snooze. If there are no trees then you must provide some kind of shelter. If you cannot provide a field shelter then pasture that has trees with overhanging branches and thick foliage is ideal to provide shade.
If possible change the turnout routine to leave your horse out at night and stable him through the day. This will ensure that he or she is avoiding the midday sun. If you cannot bring him into the stable for any reason and they need to be left out, why not place some hay in the shade for them to eat. You could also place a salt or mineral lick of a tree branch to encourage them to stay in the much needed shade!
Flies are a never ending battle. All you can do is try to minimize their irritating attack on your horse. Flies are attracted to moisture, which they need to complete their life cycle, this means your horse’s eyes, nose, mouth, and rear. Bot flies are a particular problem as they buzz around laying yellow eggs on your horse’s legs in late summer. They’re most active in bright light, so try to keep your horse in a shady paddock, or indoors. Remove the eggs as soon as you spot them. Flys cause all sorts of uncomfortable problems from bites to the extreme of causing and spreading of sarcoids.
To help control flies, pick up manure on a regular basis as many flies depend on it for survival. Protect your horses face with a fly mask. These are also effective if you have a fair skinned horse that is prone to sunburn. Make sure you use a sun cream on their face and “pink bits” to avoid this. There are insect repellents available from your local equestrian stores but I have found homemade recipes are just as effective and much cheaper to use. Avon’s “Skin So Soft” or very diluted Dettol is also an excellent fly repellent but remember to do a patch test first when using home remedies in case your horse has any reaction.
When it comes to hoof care, it seems everyone has a different opinion. One things for sure, for healthy hooves, a horse needs good nutrition and expert, regular trimming. A horse on a poor diet will have scaly skin, a patchy coat and dry brittle hooves. I am a great believer also that each horse has different conditions to their hooves through genetic make up. Some horses have excellent hooves, other do not.
Hoof moisture comes from within, the outside wall is essentially dead tissue, like our fingernails. Some argue that it’s pointless to apply oil while others say it helps nourish the hoof and keep moisture in. I personally have found that applying a hoof dressing to my horses hooves has a huge benefit. Hoof cracks have always been a problem in horses especially during the dry summer months. Some horse owners swear that regularly soaking their horse’s hooves in water helps keep them hydrated during dry periods.
The summer should be the most enjoyable months when riding your horse. If it is particularly warm, then riding first thing in the morning or early evening is an excellent time to avoid the heat of the sun and the flies when it is cooler. If you have no alternative but to ride when it is warmer, perhaps try and pick a shady route which will be better for both of you. On your return and your horse is sweaty make sure that they are washed down especially cleaning with a sponge the sweaty patches on them. This will cool them down as the water evaporates from their skin.
Most of all ENJOY your horse through these lovely summer months. Especially in the UK, these dry months are few and far between so grab every opportunity to ride out.
HAPPY SUMMER RIDING!
Written by Samantha Hobden of www.hay-net.co.uk
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