19 May 2022
Managing Horses In Hot Weather

Managing Horses In Hot Weather

Managing Horses In Hot Weather

As the UK recorded its hottest day of the year this week, how should we be managing our horses in the hot weather?

With summer well on its way, riders will be planning their sunny adventures, heading out hacking, and be relieved to no longer be riding in the wind and the rain.  But, with rising temperatures owners need to take extra precautions to prevent their horses from overheating and suffering from heat related illnesses.

Much like people, horses sweat to help keep themselves cool.  As that sweat evaporates from the skin, it creates a cooling effect that helps to prevent overheating.  To further exacerbate the issue when humidity is high, as we can sometimes experience in the UK, the sweat is much slower to evaporate.

Did you know…horses working in hot conditions can lose as much as four gallons of sweat in three hours!

Here’s the science bit…

In 2013, researchers at the Martin Luther University in Germany undertook a study into equine sweat patterns after exercise.  Using 17 Warmblood mares they were grouped into light and medium work groups.  The horses were photographed and weighed before and after work to record the physical evidence of sweat.  The levels of sweat were subsequently categorised into five different levels:

Level of sweatingCharacterisationsSweat loss% of body weight
FirstSticky/dark/moist areas under the saddle, flanks, and neck.1 to 4 litres0.2 to 0.7%
SecondWet areas on throat/ under the tack. Foamy wet patches on the neck and between hind legs1 to 7 litres0.7-1.3%
ThirdSignificantly wet areas on neck, flanks, under saddle and the girth.7 to 9 litres1.2 to 1.5%
FourthThe throat and flanks would be completely wet and moisture above eyes. Along with foaming between hind legs9 to 12 litres1.5 to 2.0%
FifthThe horse will show all the above-mentioned signs, along with heavily dripping in sweat above the eyes and under the belly.12 to 18 litres2-3 %

Who knew horses could sweat so much?

Know the signs

Knowing how much a horse can sweat is one thing, but owners need to be aware of the key signs that a horse may be overheating.  That may not just be because of exercise, horses also generate a large amount of heat from simply eating and digesting their food.  Key signs of overheating to be aware of are:

  • Profuse sweating
  • Skin that is hot to the touch
  • Stumbling and lack of co-ordination
  • Muscle weakness and a reduction in performance
  • Rapid breathing, and heart and pulse rates that don’t recover post-exercise
  • Increased body temperature
  • Signs of dehydration, such as sunken eyes and loss of skin elasticity
  • Restlessness

When the hot weather arrives, there are several things we can be doing, as horse owners, to help protect horses from overheating.

  1. Provide access to clean water in large supplies
  2. Offer shade or shelter.  Some won’t have the benefit of trees or field shelters, so finding a way of offering horses a place to escape the sun can be key.  Whether this is erecting a sunshade or whether it involves horses staying in well ventilated stables during the day and being turned out at night, offering horses some shade is paramount.
  3. Avoid riding in the hottest part of the day, opting for early morning or late evening rides could be more beneficial for your horse.
  4. Consider adding electrolytes to water and immune support supplements to feed.  The electrolytes can help the horse’s body function normally after intense sweating.  Immune support can help the horse maintain good health following heat related stress.

How can Elite Equine rosehip supplement help?

Rosehips are one of the richest plant sources of Vitamin C, as well as possessing powerful natural antioxidant properties that act to soak up excess free radicals.  The powerful Vitamin C and antioxidant combination provides additional support to the horse’s immune system, which will help aid in recovery from exercise and heat related stress.

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