With Spring well settled in here in New Zealand, we are getting glimpses of the longer, warmer days to come. And every year summer is getting hotter and hotter. This hot weather is prime time to be out and about working and playing with your horse, as well as for busy eventing schedules getting underway. It also gives the equine owner a few new things to think about when it comes to health and safety. The never ending possibilities for horse care would take pages and pages, maybe books to cover, so I'm going to stick to a few of the most important.
The sun! The biggest influencing factor in summer is the sun, obviously. Horses are very easily affected by heat, and if you don’t account for this it can lead to heat stress that becomes fatal heat exhaustion or stroke.
- Consider your horse’s condition. Increasing their time under the saddle quickly means they need time to adjust, shed winter weight and get back in shape. Make sure you’re warming up and cooling down your horse properly every time you ride. Sponging down sweaty areas, such as around the girth, can help prevent problems down the track.
- Make sure they always have access to fresh, cool water. They can drink around 40 litres a day.
-If you notice symptoms like lethargy, breathing issues, poor performance etc, use the pinch test to determine if your horse is dehydrated. Pinch your horses skin between two fingers. If the skin springs right back, you’re good. If it stays pinched when you let go for longer than a second, start taking steps to cool and re-hydrate your horse ASAP. If symptoms are still persisting after an hour, contact your vet.
- Consider stabling horses on extra hot days, and turning them out at night instead. Try to make sure they have access to shelter or shade when out in paddocks during the day.
- SUNBLOCK! Horses, like people, can get sun-burnt, especially on any white patches, which are often on faces and legs. There are horse friendly sunblocks available on the market.
Bugs Summer means insects are out in full force, which sucks for us and sucks for our horses. Flies are the big one and while they are a nuisance, they can also cause some serious issues, from disease to hoof issues, from stomping and restlessness. Your best bet at fly control is to make sure they don’t have a good breeding environment available. You can help protect your horse with fly gear and fly repellent, but you want to try to keep the numbers down in general.
- Try to keep manure well away from facilities and paddocks.
- Keep water sources clean and separate from feeding areas
- Wash all garbage bins regularly and make sure they’re fitted with tight lids that are kept closed.
- Weekly cleans of everything. The goal is to break the life cycle, so any big influx of flies suddenly is a good sign you need to look around at what area of care and hygiene could use attention.
You should also play close attention to anywhere on your property that might contain standing water. Old tyres, old buckets etc. that contain standing water are the perfect breeding spot for mosquitoes, which carry their own diseases and are also super annoying in general.
Seasonal Upkeep It’s always important for your horses well being to keep up with regular maintenance that rolls around. Is your horse due worming? Vaccinations? Dental work? How are their hooves? Consider adjusting their feed as their needs change with more exercise and access to abundant grass. Keep a salt lick out in the field with them to replace electrolytes lost through sweating. Now is the perfect time for a fresh clipping and shortening the main and tail, not only will they look great but a fresh do will keep them cooler.
Sweet Itch Sweet itch, Pruritus, Seasonal recurrent dermatitis, it has many names and can have several causes but in general this skin condition peaks through summer as a result of bites from midges and mosquitoes. Your first goal is to eliminate the bugs in the first place if possible, but once you have it in your horse and they’re itching like mad, EquineCare Probiotic is excellent as a topical treatment to heal the itching and help prevent future skin issues in your horse.
As always, if you are unsure about any aspect of your horses well being have them seen by a trusted vet as soon as you can.