Category Archives: Medical


Sunday, July 8th, 2018 | Filed under Medical

It is summer and many of us ride during peak hours.

Some of us even event during these hot and humid days.

For me, there is nothing worse than watching an unfortunate horse being demanded to perform in hot/humid conditions without adequate prep, proper cool down or ‘danger sign’ recognition from his owner.

… Makes me crazy.

So, after being prompted by a kind reader (thank you) and after discovering a handy and inexpensive product at the Horse Expo, I decided to write about this pet peeve of mine.


FIRST OFF, THE BASICS…(elaboration later)

The best way to cool down an overheated horse is to:

1)  Get them into the shade (remove them from radiant heat gain)

2)  Let them drink tepid water – add electrolytes or Gatorade  (hydration)

3)  Cold water baths (conductive heat loss) starting with feet/legs

*the  most effective areas to cool a horse are the poll, jugular vein, femoral and carotid artery…

4)  Get a breeze going – fans/air movement (convective heat loss)

An overheated horse is an unhappy horse. He needs to be cooled down quickly to avoid medical complications. Follow these steps to help him:
•    Move him to a shady spot.
•    Take his temperature, heart rate and respiration rate.
•    Compare all three rates to his usual ones and call your vet is they are abnormally high.
•    Set up fans at a safe distance from the horse if you have them available.
•    Hose cold water on his belly and underside.
•    Hose cool to tepid water over his back.
•    Never pour or hose very cold water over large hot muscles or his back.
•    Scrape the water off with a sweat scraper as you go.
•    Offer the horse a few sips of tepid water.
•    Take his temperature again in 10 minutes. If it isn’t dropping, call the vet immediately.


(from Horse Owner’s Veterinary Handbook, 2nd Edition by Giffin MD and Gore DVM.)

Heat Stroke is a dire emergency! Horses sweat for a reason. As the sweat evaporates, it removes heat as well. When it is very humid, this process can be inhibited. So heat stroke is more common on humid days because the horse cannot cool off properly.
Symptoms include: A sudden increase of sweating, elevated rectal temperature, fast heart rate, flared nostrils, rapid breathing. If breathing is higher than the heart rate, the horse is severely overheated. Muscle cramps, tremors, stiffness, and not wanting to move, tying up, depressed, weak, not wanting to drink water, and usually dehydration is also a problem.

CALL THE VET! Vets need to be involved during this process. Until your vet gets there, you can begin cooling your horse off by moving the horse into the shade and spray repeatedly with cold water. Apply alcohol sponges to the neck, flanks, and lower extremities. Set fans up on the horse. Allow the horse to sip water as he begins to become interested in drinking. The vet can administer enemas and IV Fluids to help the horse come back under control.


1)  Some vets recommend alcohol baths saying that  It evaporates quickly, and pulls heat away from the horse’s body much faster than water alone does.

2)  It is important to scrape away cooling water applied to any overheated horse because this will pull away the heat stored in that water.

3)  When using cold water, it is always best to start at the legs and move upwards while scraping away the excess water as you go.  Some vets say to use only tepid water while most say cold water is best.

Clearly, applying water and removing it – is important…

4)  Putting ice on the poll, jugular vein, carotid artery and femoral artery (inside of rear leg) will cool the horse quickly.

5)  A horse can swallow 4 gallons of water before extending the stomach so give him a bucket of water, not just a sip.  Add electrolytes to the water as long as he is willing to drink it.  Use Gatorade if you have it.

6)  Don’t overwork your horse in heat and humidity.

7)  Prep/train your horse for the heat – just like humans need heat training.


(From:  Managing Heat Stress in Horses:  Kevin H. Kline, PhD, Professor of Animal Sciences)

1.    “Never let a hot horse drink more than one or two swallows of water at a time.”
2.    “Never give ice-cold water to a hot horse – either inside or out.”
3.    “Never let a hot horse cool out without a blanket or sheet.”
4.    “Never let a hot horse cool out in a drafty area.”

By far, the most important mechanism for heat dissipation in horses is evaporation. Conversion of the water in sweat (or other sources of water placed on the horse’s hot skin) into gas consumes heat and cools the horse’s skin. During and after exercise, the horse’s skin is laden with dilated capillaries carrying overheated blood from the body core. The blood in these capillaries is cooled to help maintain a reasonable body temperature that will allow the horse’s nervous and muscular systems to function normally. Even a normally hydrated horse with no inhibition of evaporative cooling that is exercising in a hot and humid environment may achieve a rectal temperature in excess of 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Disallowing the adequate water consumption that can be used for sweating, or blocking the evaporation of water from the skin using a blanket, are very bad ideas during hot and humid conditions. These practices can result in a horse’s body temperature spiking into a dangerous range of up to 107 or 108 degrees Fahrenheit (heat stroke). Although allowing a hot horse to consume unrestricted amounts of water may lead to problems such as colic due to hyperdistension of the stomach, it should be realized that a typical horse’s stomach can hold between 2 and 4 gallons of fluid without being distended. So, even though a horse’s stomach is small compared to other animals of its size, one or two sips of water at a time is overly restrictive when the hot horse is rapidly losing water trying to keep itself cool.

Statement #2 above has been the source of some controversy over the years because of the belief among certain horse trainers that ice cold water placed on a hot horse’s body will “shock” the horse’s thermoregulatory system into shutting down blood flow to the skin. This belief has been found to be wrong. Extensive research conducted during 1995 at the University of Illinois and University of Guelph and at the 1996 Olympic Summer Games in Atlanta proved conclusively that horses working under hot and humid conditions were better able to maintain core body temperature within an acceptable range or even reduce it during rest periods after intense phases when ice water baths were used. Liberal application of icy cold water to overheated horses helps to dissipate heat not only by providing more water to evaporate from the skin, but also by direct conduction of the horse’s body heat into the water which runs off the horse, carrying away excess heat in the process. According to University of Illinois researcher Dr. Jonathan Foreman, “In our treadmill simulations of C Halt (a rest period during a phase of the equestrian competitions at the Olympic games), cold water baths were used with significant decreases in core temperatures and heart rates. No adverse clinical effects were apparent during the remainder of Phase C trotting or after exercise. Horses actually trotted more freely after bathing stops.”

*(from me) Since this article was written, it has also been discovered that more focused cold water (ice) placed directly on the carotid and femoral arteries, the poll and jugular vein are very beneficial. In fact, Texas A&M is now requesting air weave blankets with pockets to hold ice over these areas as well as the back and large rump muscles.

Another practice that makes little sense physiologically is preventing access to
moving air during hot and humid conditions. During the 1996 Atlanta Olympic
Games, 85 misting fans were placed at shaded recovery areas throughout
various phases of the equestrian courses to allow these elite athletes to stabilize
and lower their body temperatures. Regular dry fans work to both increase
evaporation, and also dissipate heat by the cooling process known as
convection. Misting fans take advantage of the additional cooling property of
blowing water onto the horse that is in the process of changing from liquid to gas.

The shaded areas guard against additional heat load through solar radiation.
Although radiation of heat from the horse’s body into the atmosphere is a
potential mode of heat dissipation, it most often works in the opposite direction
during sunny days, with horses (especially dark ones) gaining radiant heat from
the environment


** EQUI COOL DOWN PRODUCTS.  I highly recommend them.  I don’t think your horse should be ridden in this kind of hot weather, but if you need to cool one down – or an older horse…. or a sick horse, these products are terrific.  Really.

I use the human products all the time.  I love their stuff and it WORKS (I practically live in their neck towels…).  You wet the cloth and snap it – to get the cool.  It stays cool, even during really hot day, for the longest of any product out there (imho).  No affiliation.

Click to go to the website.


Click to go to website

Click to go to website

I thought this was an interesting concept from the UK.  The developer spent time racing in Dubai and feels that alcohol or – drawing the heat out – is the ticket.

It reminds me of external anti-freeze for your horse.  I think it is fast and furious…

From the website:

Equinice products

Equinice products

Equi-N-icE works by drawing heat out as opposed to other products that work on driving cold in.

Equi-N-icE requires No refrigeration, is not messy, needs no mixing, has no unpleasant smells.

The treated area will drop by 10-15°C and stay that way for up to 2-3 hours.

Once used the Equi-N-icE Bandage can be washed and reused by adding enough ready mixed Coolant to make the Ice bandage damp and replace in the re-sealable pouch until needed again.

The Coolant is supplied in correct concentration for direct application for ease of use and it is non irritant to skin.


Simply put, this is the right idea but not as inexpensive nor as quick and easy as the RES ER VEIN/ARTERY COOLER.

However, it has a poll cooler, which is nice.  And, it looks more sleek.

To me, the downside is that you have to have the ice packs with you in order to make it work.  If you left them at home, you are out of luck.

The concept is to have the ice packs cooled and ready to go (like what you would put in a lunch box or a frozen shipping container).  Then, you insert the ready-made packs into the bonnet and neck cooler.

Ice-Bonnet cooler. The idea is to cool the poll and jugular. The sleek ice-packs insert into the neck and poll devices.

Ice-Bonnet cooler. The idea is to cool the poll and jugular. The sleek ice-packs insert into the neck and poll devices.


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TIME TO CLEAN UDDERS, SHEATHS … dirty job but somebody has to do it!

Winter is coming to a close and quite possibly, your mare has collected some mud in her udder. She might be rubbing at her tail dock…

Now… there are several reasons why a horse could rub at their tail dock.  Click here if you’d like to look into that further.

But one sure fire reason that they rub at their tail docks is due to itchy udders and sheaths.  Those areas are almost impossible for a horse to reach on his own, so he/she does the best they can by rubbing the tail dock.


This is a pic of MT's tail from long ago - telling me that I have neglected my udder cleaning duty.

This is a pic of MT’s tail  (from long ago) – telling me that I have neglected my udder cleaning duty.


A while back, I found myself using every kind of sweet itch formula, dandruff formula, wormer, lice spotter… you name it, I was trying it – in an effort to figure out why my mares were rubbing out their tails.

Back then, my Old Tymey vet told me to “clean the udders”.

??  Wha?  Udders?  Why?

He told me that mares get gunk and perspiration up between their udders – especially in the Summer when they are playing outside and it is hot and dusty.


So, I checked up in there (be careful if you have a maiden mare or if you mare is not familiar with you checking her udders), and sure enough, MT was full of cakey-gunky black stuff between her udders.

As soon as I cleaned it out, she quit rubbing.

Easy fix.




Cleaning an udder isn’t as easy as it may sound.  It depends, really.  On a mare who is familiar with having her udders handled, it is easy.

On a maiden mare, not so much…  So, be gentle, easy and careful.  I’m not a horse trainer but I do know to for sure keep your body out of the kicking range – and go very slowly and gently.  No tickling.

As far as a gelding and his sheath, same deal.  That area can get full of ‘beans’ which are crusty pellets that sit in there, becoming huge and are irritating.  You might see your gelding kick at his stomach when there are no flies… or even when there are flies… so do have his sheath cleaned regularly.

I don’t personally clean any of my geldings’ sheaths now that Aladdin has passed.  He let me do it but he was the only one.  The rest are not comfortable with it so… whenever I have their teeth done, I have the vet also do their sheaths.

*Many trainers teach a baby colt to ‘drop’ for cleaning.

Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 11.01.22 AM

This is not me smiling happily under a gelding while sheath cleaning. I found this pic from a sheath cleaning clinic Google search.


Previous to today,  I used only warm water, mild soap and a soft cloth to clean udders.  This was fine; until I found something much better!

Today, I tried Equi-Spa Udder/Sheath cleaner.  Now, I know what you are thinking.  Why not use something you already have around the house.  Why buy a specialty item?  Yup.  That’s what I thought, too.

The reason why is because it works  so. much. better.  Totally a breeze.  Liquidates and soothes.

I brought out my bucket of warm water, my soft cloth and my Equi-Spa udder cleaner.   (They also make THE BALM that I love!)  Anyway, I was all prepared to not notice any difference between homemade cleaners and this Equi-Spa Sheath and Udder Cleaner. I dunked my cloth in the warm water and squeezed out the excess (hate it when water runs down my arm) and squirted on the cleaner.  The fragrance was clean and flowery.

I started with Tess because she is the easiest.  And, a strange thing happened.  It glided!  I don’t know how to otherwise describe it, but the cloth glided so smoothly against her udders that I thought I was using oil.  And, the yuk broke up so quickly and smoothly that it made me realize my usual homemade formula wasn’t so good…  I swear it made the whole area shiny and squeaky-clean in a matter of moments!  (The bottle says to leave it on for 10-15 mins for hardened debris – but I think that is more for sheaths.  Dunno.  It came right off for me.)

And, the best part, I didn’t have to worry about rinsing the cleaner off.  What I mean to say is that you need to rinse to get rid of the yuk up there, but you don’t have to make sure all the cleaner is gone.  With soap, you do.  I used to get her legs wet, my pants wet, my arms soaked as I rinsed the beejeezus out of that area to make sure her skin wouldn’t be irritated.  But this stuff is E-A-S-Y.

This is my hand holding my Udder (and sheath) Cleaner.


OMGosh!  The bottle says to “Reapply as needed to protect and moisturize the area”.  Wow.

So, I’m sold.


I emailed Equi-Spa and asked what ingredients made this cleaner work so well.  Here is the reply:

The Udder cleaner is based in  vegetable glycerin and organic Aloe vera gel.  The glycerin is slick, hydrophilic and helps soften and loosen smegma…easy rinse and pulls the dissolving “dirt and debris” with it.  It also contains a small amount of witch hazel along with the Aloe is very very soothing and helps leave a healthy “environment” .  Horses like it because it feels soothing and yes a bit cooling to them from the Aloe.   The cool smell is Tea Tree…there is no camphor or menthol to make it feel “icy” to the horse.  It is very clinical smelling.  There is also other essential oils that are beneficial for discouraging yeast and bacteria growth  but are in very small amounts as to not cause any irritation…in fact just the opposite.  I also use it to detangle tails, (it dries fluffy)  great for cleaning out dogs ears, and for applying over scratches to soften the scabs and accelerates the healing process.

IF YOU WANT SOME, TOO (no affiliation)

If you would like some EquiSpa Sheath and Udder Cleaner, here is the link.  It is only $17 and it goes a long way.



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