horse care hot weather

Hot weather horse care: 6 tips for protecting your horse during summer

Nothing beats riding your horse in the glorious sunshine, but our equine friends can be in danger of dehydration and heatstroke if not properly cared for.

Let’s have a look at the best ways of keeping your horse safe in the summer heat.

Know the symptoms of heatstroke in horses

First things first, it’s good to know what you’re looking out for because the sooner you can spot signs of heatstroke in your horse, the quicker you can treat them.

Your horse may be suffering from heatstroke if they exhibit any of these symptoms:

  • An elevated heartrate (ask your vet for advice on checking your horse’s heartrate)
  • Lots of sweating (although lack of sweating can also be a sign)
  • High temperature (as horses often feel hot to the touch, a rectal temperature measure is advised)
  • Weakness, restlessness or a general state of discoordination/depression

Any or all of the symptoms above will require the help of a vet.

Make sure they have access to shade

This is especially important for horses who live outdoors permanently. They should be able to access shaded shelter whenever they want to, so make sure their stalls or other protected areas block out the sun at all times of the day. If they don’t, you’ll need an additional shelter.

Provide plenty of drinking water

Of course, the best way of staying hydrated – for horses as with humans – is to drink plenty of water! Make sure your horse has water available throughout the day; store it in cool, shaded areas to lower the chances of it getting warm.

If your horse is sweating, you replace the salts lost through sweat by adding electrolytes to their drinking water – just be sure to use separate containers for water with and without electrolytes.

Lessen the load

Everything is more difficult when it’s hot outside; this rule applies for horses too. If you work your horse, consider reducing their workload during hot weather and supplement this work with frequent drinks, shade breaks and pouring buckets (upon buckets) of water over them.

Consider the time of day very carefully when making plans to take your horse out for a ride - early mornings and late evenings will be best during the summer, this helps to avoid having your horse outside and exercising heavily during the midday heat.

Although with this in mind, try not to change your horse’s routine too drastically as they’re not too fond of change.

Keep their coat in good condition

Horses can get sunburnt too! You can avoid this by applying sun cream to sensitive areas. Sensitive areas include thin hair or white hair – socks, for example, and especially the muzzle.

Long, bristly, itchy fur is the last thing anyone needs when the sun’s beating down. Although your horse should be groomed all year round, they’ll appreciate it more during the summer months.

Need more info?

For expert advice on your horse and their welfare, contact your local equine vet. To find your nearest recommended vet or pet clinic, use our Find a Vet page