This information may be repetitive to some, but very valuable to others. Perhaps there is something in here that you’ve forgotten about or need to do for your horses. This past week has been very scary here on the West Coast…
PREVENTING HEAT-RELATED PROBLEMS IN HORSES
Here are 10 tips-from keeping horses hydrated to limiting exercise-on preventing heat-related problems.
Posted by University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine
Meteorologists believe we will continue to produce record hot temperatures throughout northern California. Many horse events are scheduled during this time. Here are 10 important tips from clinicians at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine on preventing heat-related problems in horses.
1. HEAT CAN KILL:
High environmental temperatures and related heat issues of dehydration, exhaustion, and heat stroke can occur in horses and can produce illness and death. This is serious business and you must take steps to ensure your horse is protected when traveling in a trailer, being ridden on trail rides, or in competition events.
2. DRINK WATER:
Maintain hydration in your horse by allowing free access to water at all times during hot weather. It is a myth that a hot horse drinking water will experience colic or other medical problems. Never let your horse pass up a chance to drink water. Only horses that have been deprived of water for a significant time (many hours or days) need to have water provided in smaller amounts over time. Let your horse drink on the trail or after a class at a show. Offer some hay and your horse will often drink after eating the hay. Soup-consistency bran or pellet mashes are another means of getting extra water into your horse
Provide shade as much as possible.
4. LIMIT ACTIVITY:
Limit what you do with your horse during peak heat:
Ride or compete with your horse in the early mornings when it is cooler.
Ask the ride or event management to consider a change in the program schedule to limit afternoon activities during peak heat.
Shorten your rides.
Go slower and provide frequent breaks for your horse, in shade.
Encourage your horse to drink whenever they want water.
Provide open vents and windows in trailers which can open for cross ventilation (however, don’t let your horse stick its head out while on the road).
6. KNOW THE SIGNS:
Know signs of fatigue and overheating in your horse and stop before more severe signs of heat exhaustion begin.
Common signs of overheating include:
Persistent high respiratory rate that does not come down with rest over 10-30 minutes (normal is 20-40 breaths per minute).
Change in mentation, decreased energy level, and reluctance to keep going.
Dry mucous membranes in the mouth (they should feel “slimy”).
Prolonged capillary refill time. Push on your horse’s gum. They should be pink to start, then it will blanch to white after pressure, and return to pink in approximately one second. Check this at the start of your day and frequently throughout the day. If it is prolonged, your horse is trying to tell you to stop, rest, and provide water. If other signs of colic or muscle pain occur, seek immediate veterinary attention.
Decreased gut sounds. Listen at the start of your day (if you don’t have a stethoscope put your ear on your horse’s flank, behind the ribs). You should hear gurgling sounds on both sides of the belly–that is normal and good. Quiet gut sounds are a warning that your horse may be heading for dehydration or exhaustion.
If in a barn with limited ventilation, try to arrange more air circulation by careful placement of a barn-safe fan in front of the stall or in the aisle way. Keep electric cords out of reach of horses.
8. HOSE, SPRAY AND POUR
Hose or spray off your horse or pour water from a bucket over your horse: Cool water is fine, and normal temperature (not hot) water is good, too. Evaporation produces cooling and continuous hosing is one of the most effective means of lowering body temperature.
9. WATER SOURCE:
Keep a supply of water available for your horse to drink. Obtain some clean five gallon cans and fill them up with water before you travel.
These might be useful if the horse has been sweating excessively. Only use if they can be followed by access to water to drink. Have a plan outlined by your veterinarian if you have not used electrolytes before, and only use electrolytes specifically made for horses.
-Tips provided by John Madigan, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, ACAW; Gary Magdesian, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, ACVECC; and W. David Wilson, BVMS, MS, MRCVS.
For my retired show pony last weekend where it was 113 in my western Oregon town, in addition to the deeply shaded stall in the barn with good circulation (well, even a barn in the shade with good air circulation is basically useless given how hot it was, but sure better than unshaded sun) he had to be cool misted for 20 minutes every hour during the day to bring down his body temp and slow his breathing. Did he love that? Oh yeah. Total bliss. Cool water misting plus using rubber sweat scraper to remove the water that heated up quickly on his body. This followed by slow walking where there was a better “breeze event” under the trees in front of the barn – again, deep shade. The air in the sun was not moving but interesting that the trees themselves seemed to generate something of a cooler breeze.
While I’m very lucky to have A/C throughout my house it was struggling mightily to keep the house cool, I don’t think it managed anything better than about 83 indoors running full blast.
Note that fans are not always a good idea. They seem to just move hot air around and they can sometimes draw so much power that it trips the switch box. And you don’t want more hot air blowing on an already hot horse!
Why was my guy in such danger? He’s one of those rare horses that have anhydrosis. My other two ponies were fine in their stalls in the barn. My protocol is bring everyone in once daytime temps hit 80, and turn out after dark and leave out all night.
I’m planning to move to a coastal location. Probably not in Oregon. Every time I smell wildfire smoke I start to have a panic attack, this after four successive years of living on the edge of level 2 evacuation warnings. If the PNW is now hot summer central due to climate change, it’s not for me anymore.