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8 Tips for Horse Care in Hot Weather

We’ve all felt the summer heat, but our horses experience it differently. Overheating can lead to serious health problems for horses, including dehydration, heat stress, and even heat stroke. Here are some comprehensive tips to keep your horse cool, comfortable, and healthy in hot weather.

1. Reversing Turnout Times

If your horse is normally stabled at night and out during the day, consider swapping the turnout times. This ensures your horse can avoid both the hottest temperatures and the pesky flies that come with them.

2. Shelter and Shade Options

Make sure there is accessible shelter, such as trees, a field shelter, or even temporary sheeting. Horses need a place to escape the sun if they choose. A light-colored fly rug or summer sheet, particularly white, can reflect the sun’s heat, keeping the horse cooler.

3. Protection Against Sunburn

Apply suncream to white areas on the face and heels, which are most prone to sunburn. Fly masks with UV protective properties can also help.

4. Water and Hydration

Providing plenty of clean water is essential. Wetting the rug while on the horse or pouring water all over the horse’s body surface after riding can help cool down quickly. Consider feeding electrolytes to replace those lost through sweating, or make a rehydrating solution at home with salt, sugar, and water. Be mindful of the taste if you add them to water; always offer an electrolyte-free option.

5. Stable Cooling Strategies

Fans, out of reach of the horse, may increase airflow in the stable. Consider spraying the walls with insecticide to discourage stable flies.

6. Transportation Considerations

Avoid transporting your horse during the heat. If necessary, ensure all windows are open, and use roof vents strategically to draw hot air out. On arrival, evaluate whether it’s cooler for the horse to remain in the trailer or stand outside in the shade.

7. Signs of Heat Stroke and Dehydration

As a responsible horse owner, it’s crucial to recognize the signs of heat stroke and dehydration in your horse. Here’s what you need to look out for:

Heat Stroke:

  • Excessive Sweating or Lack of Sweating: If your horse is sweating more than usual or not at all, it may be a sign of heat stroke.
  • Rapid Breathing and Flared Nostrils: Increased respiratory rate with flared nostrils could signal that your horse is trying to cool itself down.
  • Wobbly or Ataxic Movement: Unsteady movement could be a clear sign of heat stroke. Keep your horse walking in the shade to prevent collapsing.
  • High Body Temperature: Regularly monitoring your horse’s temperature can be a lifesaver. A high temperature is a red flag.


  • Lethargy and Depression: If your horse seems more tired and unresponsive than usual, it could be dehydrated.
  • Thick, Sticky Saliva and Dark Urine: Check for changes in saliva and urine, as they may indicate dehydration.
  • Increased Pulse and Breathing Rate: Like with heat stroke, these can be signs that your horse is struggling with the heat.
  • Reddened Mucous Membranes: If the mucous membranes become redder in color, it might be a sign of dehydration.

If you suspect that your horse may be suffering from heat stroke, put it in the shade, and pour considerable amounts of cold water over its whole body. Allow the water to run off or evaporate without scraping off the excess liquid, as this is how best to cool down a horse quickly. Offer water to drink every few minutes, and if signs persist, contact your vet as a matter of urgency.

For dehydration, ensuring your horse is consuming more than double its normal water intake is essential during hot weather. If you’re adding electrolytes to water, make sure your horse likes the taste or provide an electrolyte-free option. If you notice any signs of dehydration or if your horse doesn’t show improvement, contact your vet immediately.

8. Riding and Exercise Considerations

Riding in the morning or evening is best. Be mindful of your horse’s fitness and allow more breaks. Cooling down properly by continuously pouring water is essential, especially for overweight horses who may struggle more.

Keeping a horse cool in hot weather involves more than just providing water and shade. It requires a comprehensive understanding of your horse’s needs, habits, and the environmental challenges that hot weather presents.

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