Your Horse & Hot Weather
It wasn’t so long ago we were talking about how our outdoor riders keep their horses fit in the cold weather and what the limitations / potential risks there were with exercising your horse(s) in the extreme cold. It seems reasonable though that we approach it from the other side of the coin as well, what about horses in hot weather?! Show season is upon us and we are forecasted to have a very warm summer here in Western Canada! And although we’re much overdue for some seriously RAD hot summer weather, you may find the following facts interesting for your horses’ sake.
1. How does your horse self-cool? Believe it or not, sweating is the horses secondary mechanism to self-cooling. The first, is the capillaries of the skin dilate. “As blood flows through the body of a horse at rest, heat is absorbed from the muscles and organs. When the blood reaches vessels that lie just under the surface of the skin, the excess warmth dissipates into the cooler outside air. When a horse exercises, the amount of internal heat generated by his muscles increases. To maintain a constant internal body temperature, the excess heat must be dissipated faster. To accomplish that goal, the capillaries become dilated so more blood will be sent to the skin. If a horse continues working to the point that the capillaries cannot keep up with the heat he is generating, only then will he begin to sweat”
2. What parts of the horse’s body are a resource for backup fluid? “The gastrointestinal tract, especially the cecum and large intestine, is an important reservoir of fluids that are rich in nutrients and electrolytes from the horse’s feed. The blood will also draw a lot of fluid from the spaces between his cells. If the horse continues sweating to the point where these reserves are running low, his body will start to draw fluid from inside of his cells. At this point, however, he is becoming seriously dehydrated. Horses who sweat too long without replenishing their fluids can experience a number of health issues, ranging from impaction colic to tying up.”
3. How can you test your horse for being dehydrated? Test One: Skin Pinch Test “Grasp a fold of skin on the point of his shoulder and pull it away from his body slightly. Then release it, noticing how long it takes for the “pinch” to flatten out. In a hydrated horse, the skin will snap back in less than a second. If the crease is still visible after two to three seconds, the horse is dehydrated” Test Two: Gum Test “Press your finger on your horse’s gums. When you release the pressure, you’ll see a white spot; note how long it takes for the pink color to return. If the blood hydration is normal, the pink will return in less than two seconds. If the spot remains after three or four seconds, the horse may be dehydrated. (Note: this test is also used to help detect shock, blood loss and other conditions affecting circulation.)”
4. How do you keep your horse recharged in the hot weather? “Electrolytes are minerals---calcium, potassium, sodium, magnesium, chloride, bicarbonate and phosphate---that play a role in most of the electrochemical processes that sustain life. And all are lost in prodigious quantities when a horse sweats. Fortunately, a horse can replenish his internal mineral supplies as he grazes or eats his normal feeds. Sometimes, however, administering an electrolyte supplement may be advisable to help a sweaty horse recover faster.”
5. What are the two essential electrolytes that are missing from regular diets? Horse feed (grass, hay and grain) is generally rich in electrolytes, but there are two essential electrolytes that are not overly abundant in natural feeds. “Sodium and Chloride. The two elements that make up common table salt are not abundant in grasses and other natural feeds. But horses have natural appetites for salt and will consume what they need from a salt block. Allowing your horse to have free-choice access to a salt block is essential, especially during hot weather.”
Credit to EQUUS for an informative article. Read the entire article here: