Take Precautions against Equine Heat Stress

Take Precautions against Equine Heat Stress

“Enjoy riding your horse this summer, but make sure to prepare yourself and your horse properly before attempting the beat the heat,” Walker said.

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Summer means hot, humid weather in many parts of the country, including Louisiana. And horse owners in those areas need to take steps to ensure their horses stay cool and comfortable, says Louisiana State University AgCenter equine specialist Neely Walker, MS, PhD.

Just like humans, horses cool off by sweating. So, in hot and humid weather, they must consume more water. Owners should ensure horses have access to copious quantities of fresh, clean water to prevent overheating. Horses that are worked in temperatures above 70°F can easily consume up to 25 gallons of water a day, Walker said.

Another way to prevent heat stress is to ensure that barns, paddocks, and stalls are properly ventilated. Barn doors and windows can be kept open, when safe, to allow airflow, Walker said, and fans can be installed to increase air circulation around horses in stalls.

When feeding, owners should pay attention to protein content. Excessive protein can cause additional metabolic heat during the digestion process, Walker said, which can make it more difficult for a horse to cool down. Crude protein should not exceed 12% to 14% of the total ration for a working adult horse, Walker said. The protein content in the ration for an idle mature horse should be closer to 10%.

Horses’ rations also need salt: about 0.5% for idle mature horses and 1% for working horses daily. While premixed complete rations contain salt, provide free choice salt or mineral blocks because each horse’s salt requirement varies, Walker said. As long as horses have free choice of water available, excess salt consumption is not typically a problem.

“Enjoy riding your horse this summer, but make sure to prepare yourself and your horse properly before attempting the beat the heat,” Walker said. “Be aware and take breaks to monitor your horse’s physical condition.”

Walker advises riding in a covered arena or in the early morning or evening when temperatures are cooler. It is also important to take time to properly cool down horses after riding, she said.

Signs of heat stress include weakness, stumbling, increased respiration, and a body temperature in the range of 102°F to 106°F. If you suspect heat stress, Walker recommends offering small amounts of water regularly and moving the horse to a shaded, well-ventilated area. If necessary, hose the horse with water, starting at the feet and working upward. If the horse’s temperature stays above 106°F, contact a veterinarian immediately.

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