Caring for Your Horse in Hot and Humid Climates with Elite Equine
As summer approaches, horse owners and riders must take extra precautions to keep their horses safe from hot, humid conditions. Like humans, horses sweat to keep themselves cool. As the sweat evaporates from the skin, it creates a cooling effect that prevents the animal from overheating. However, when humidity is high, sweat is slower to evaporate. Horses that work in hot, humid conditions can lose as much as two to four gallons of sweat an hour.
To keep your horse happy and healthy in hot and humid climates, it’s important to understand how relative humidity and air temperature impact horse cooling. Horse owners also need to be on the lookout for signs of overheating. Learn more about caring for your horse in hot, humid environments.
Image ©National Weather Service
Air temperature and Relative Humidity – How It Affects Cooling
If air temperature (Fahrenheit) and relative humidity (percentage) are:
- Less than 130 – Horse cooling efficiency is at its most effective
- Between 130 and 150 – Horse cooling efficiency is decreased
- Greater than 150 – Horse cooling efficiency is greatly reduced
- Greater than 180 – The horse’s condition can be fatal
Signs of Overheating in Horses
Horses generate a large amount of heat through digestion and muscular activity. Overheating can occur when horses are not able to maintain adequate cooling mechanisms, resulting in heat exhaustion or possible heatstroke. Several signs could indicate that your horse is experiencing heat stress, such as:
- Profuse sweating (or less sweating than expected)
- Hot skin (can progress to cold skin if the skin circulation shuts down)
- Muscle weakness
- Rapid breathing
- Rapid heartbeat and pulse rates that don’t recover post-exercise
- Increased body temperature
- Signs of dehydration, such as sunken eyes and loss of skin elasticity
Tips for Keeping Your Horse Cool in Hot and Humid Climates
Good horse care requires owners to take the necessary steps to protect their hoses in hot, humid conditions. These five tips can help keep your horse cool and comfortable.
- Provide Access to Clean Water
Horses should always have unlimited access to cool, clean water. An adult horse can drink upwards of 10 to 20 gallons of water daily while at rest. More water is needed in hot, humid conditions.
- Offer Adequate Shelter and Shade
Your horse should have a place where it can go to get out of the hot sun. This could be a natural or man-made shady area that is well ventilated. Consider adding fans to horses in confined spaces to keep them cool.
- Avoid Riding Your Horse in Hot Weather
Excessive heat can put undue stress on your horse, especially older, overweight, or out-of-shape horses. Avoid riding your horse when the combined temperature and relative humidity are above 150. If you do want to ride, consider riding early in the morning or later in the evening when it’s cooler. Keep the ride short and allow for frequent breaks.
- Consider Adding Electrolytes to Water and Immune Support Supplements to Food
Adding electrolytes to your horse’s water after it has been sweating heavily can help keep the body functioning normally. Be sure to also offer plain water as some horses do not like the taste of electrolytes and may choose to drink less. Other supplements can also help your horse maintain good health. Elite Equine offers an organic natural rosehip supplement for horses that support a horse’s anti-inflammatory process and immune system which will help aid in recovery from exercise and heat-related stress.
- Know How to Cool an Overheated Horse
If your horse has overheated (rectal temperature above 103 degrees F)., spray the horse’s head, neck, back, legs, and rump with a steady stream of cool water. Continue to spray until the horse has cooled down. For very hot horses (rectal temperature above 105 degrees F), use an ice bath to cool down the animal faster.
Acclimating Horses to Hot and Humid Climates
If you plan on moving to a hot and humid climate, it’s important to acclimate your horse. Most horses require a 15- to 21-day acclimation period which will gradually increase the horse’s tolerance to heat and exercise.
For more horse care tips, please visit Elite Equine’s resource library