As temperatures rise, please keep your stock's health in mind at all times. Heat stroke can occur not just when horses are working
hard, but also when they are traveling in trailers or standing in stuffy stables or unshaded pastures. I'd like to include a simple list of things you can do to help avoid such an occurance.
Provide ample fresh clean water, and make sure that all your
stock can reach it; keep in mind that foals, ponies and donkeys have a difficult time reaching
shallow water at the bottom of a tank. Ideally, clean and refill buckets or tanks daily.
Try to ride only in the early morning or late evening when
it is cooler; avoid riding during the heat of the day unless you have ample
shade and plenty of rest and watering breaks. Also, loosen cinches whenever you
do have a rest period.
Always cool your horse down after a workout; don't just turn
them loose in the pasture. Offer sips of cool water and walk the horse
slowly. Muscles are more apt to stiffen if the horse is allowed to stand and
moving muscles dissipate heat better than stationary ones. Use a wet sponge or
hose down the large blood vessels with cold water along the inside of the legs,
belly, and neck.
Make sure that your stock is able to avoid the sun. There
should be some sort of permanent shade available to them, such as a loafing
shed, barn, or shade trees. If your stock is kept in a barn, use a fan for
continuous air flow. Of course, make sure the horse can not reach the cord or
fan itself, it can't be tipped over, and it cannot come in contact with water.
Definitely use fly spray, sheets or fly masks. Horses can
easily overheat in hot weather from pacing, stomping, kicking, and biting at
Use sunscreen anywhere that pink skin shows. Zinc oxide
cream works well to prevent and treat sunburn. This may not prevent heat stroke, but it helps, and a sunburn is just as painful to horses as it is to humans.
Call a vet and take immediate action if your horse exhibits
any of these symptoms:
Elevated respiration in an inactive horse - When your horse is healthy, get a baseline count of breaths to minutes so that you have a number to compare against.
Elevated pulse in an inactive horse, or pulse that does not
drop after several minutes or climbs once exercise has stopped. Again, you should have a baseline measurement.
An irregular heart beat.
- Profuse sweating or no sweating at all.
- Elevated body temperature above 103F.
- A depressed attitude.
Dehydration. Test for this by observing your horse's flanks.
If they look caved in, he is probably dehydrated. Pick up a pinch of skin along
your horse's neck. If the skin snaps back quickly the horse is sufficiently
hydrated. If the pinched area collapses slowly the horse is dehydrated.
What to Do Until The Vet Arrives:
horse as cool as you can; make use of any available shade, as well as breezes or fans.
Stand your horse in a pond or stream if it is available. If not, sponge or spray the
large blood vessels along the inside of the legs and belly with cool water.
Offer sips of
cool, not cold, water.