How do horses tolerate the heat?


A few facts to start with

It’s summer and the temperatures are slowly getting higher. While many of us go to the lake or to air-conditioned rooms to withstand these temperatures, the horses stand in the heat in the hot stables.

But how do you deal with the heat? Do they feel the temperatures the same way we humans do? And can I still ride and work my horse?

  • Horses overheat up to 10 times faster than humans, so exercise caution at these temperatures.
  • Black horses have a harder time at these temperatures because the black fur absorbs the sun’s rays more and heats up more.
  • Horse breeds from the northern areas, such as Icelanders, have a harder time in the heat.

Has my horse already suffered from too much heat?

You can recognize overheating by the fact that your horse is dehydrated, the mucous membranes have poor blood circulation, shortness of breath and a weak, fast pulse.

Prolonged overheating can lead to colic, diarrhea, drop in blood pressure and even kidney failure, so caution is advised.

Speaking of dehydration ; Horses need even more water in hot weather, just like us humans. It is therefore important to have enough fresh, cool water freely available.

The best way to tell if your horse is dehydrated is to do a skin fold test. To do this, take a fold of skin on your neck and carefully pull it away. After you let go, it should straighten out immediately. However, if this lasts longer than 2 seconds, you have mild dehydration. If it lasts longer than 5 seconds, there is more severe dehydration. Then the vet should be called immediately. Other signs include darker urine and dry stools.

A heat stroke however, you can recognize the following signs:

  • your horse is very hot and is sweating profusely without exerting himself
  • rapid, weak pulse
  • it does not eat and makes an apathetic impression (hangs its head, dull look)
  • it is dehydrated
  • has coordination problems and staggers when walking.
    If this is the case, call a vet immediately!

Should I ride or rather leave my horse?

Horses are creatures of habit, if you suddenly change the entire daily routine or stop moving your horse, this can cause stress in sensitive horses.

However, adjustments should still be made!

Horses find it harder to do the same work when the temperature is high than it is when it is cooler. That’s why you should slowly get your horse used to the heat and not do too much.

If you’re having a hard time shutting down work, make sure you ride early in the morning or late at night when the temperatures are even cooler. Otherwise, a ride in the forest, ground work or stretching exercises are always a pleasant alternative. You can find many stretching exercises in our free eBook: Physiotherapy for your horse

Never try to ride in the midday heat.

Always pay attention to how your horse is behaving, as soon as you see signs of overheating, stop immediately. In general, only fit and healthy horses should work at such temperatures and enough rest breaks should be built in.

Older horses or horses with unstable circulation should only be exercised lightly, such as going for a walk in the woods.

Tips for the hot days

  • make sure you have enough cool water (15-20°Celsius). Be careful not to use too cold water!
  • if no self-drinkers are available, make sure that there is always fresh water in the buckets and check often enough that the water is not getting poor
  • if your horse is outside, there should be enough shade available
  • it is best to put your horse out overnight or early in the morning. In the midday sun it is then too hot even with shade
  • a shower to cool down. Make sure that you start at the back of the legs and cool down for at least 10 minutes, otherwise the opposite effect will occur and the leg will become warm
  • when hosing down, make sure that the water temperature is not below 15 degrees of the outside temperature
  • protect your horse from sunburn by applying sunscreen to its nostrils
  • Shear horses with too thick a coat

With these tips, you and your horse will hopefully get through the hot summer well.