Staying cool despite the heat wave - this is what you should pay attention to in summer

Trotz Hitzewelle cool bleiben - Darauf solltest du im Sommer achten
Heat waves with record temperatures will not remain uncommon. That's why it's good to know how best to deal with it and what you should pay attention to when dealing with your horse. We dispel a few myths about heat and give tips so that you can enjoy the summer with your horse.

How well do horses tolerate heat?

Overall very good, even if the comfortable temperature of horses is between 5° and 15° Celsius. Horses are more adaptable than we often think and horses live easily even in very hot countries. As with us humans, it also depends on the individual circumstances and “type”. Some breeds, such as cold-blooded horses, find it more difficult to cope with high temperatures and older horses can also find these more difficult. If the horses are outside all day, there must be sufficient shaded areas available and free access to water.

How does thermoregulation work?

The principle works like it does for us: the sweat produced and the increased blood flow to the skin ensure evaporative cooling. Sweating is a completely normal and healthy reaction to heat and exertion. However, because their muscle groups are larger in relation to the surface of their skin, horses can also overheat more quickly than we do. A special feature of horses: sweat contains (in addition to a large amount of salts) the protein latherin. This protein ensures that sweat becomes foamy, which means it is distributed more evenly over the body and cools even more effectively.

Training and tournaments in summer temperatures?

We ourselves wouldn't necessarily go jogging in the midday heat and we should also choose the cooler morning or evening hours for our horse's training, or move the ride to the cool riding arena. In extreme heat, however, you should only exercise the horses moderately and, above all, take significantly more step breaks so that the pulse and breathing calm down
However, it is generally no problem for well-trained horses to take part in tournaments even at higher temperatures. Good management is the be-all and end-all here. If the trailer is in the blazing sun, you should unload and wait with the horse in the shade and also give it a shower. If this is not possible, moist towels on the horse's neck and neck or special cooling blankets ensure freshness. Additional cooling and enough water should always be provided in the stable tent.

Cool down

After a summer ride, it is particularly important to ride or lead the horse for a sufficiently long walk. If possible, look for a shady spot and walk until your breathing returns to normal. At rest, a horse takes 8-16 breaths per minute. This can be easily recognized by the raising and lowering of the flanks. If the horse is visibly pumping, you should do a few more laps. Unsaddling or loosening the belt provides additional relaxation when leading.

Stay hydrated!

Horses drink an average of 30-50 liters of water per day. At high temperatures and intensive training it can even be up to 80 liters. The water offered should definitely be clean and not too cold. If there are water tubs in the pasture, they have to be cleaned very regularly, especially in summer, to remove algae, mosquito larvae, etc. to free. Drinking regularly can prevent overheating and circulatory problems. If it is particularly hot, you can offer a bucket of water in addition to the water you drink yourself.
If your horse has trouble drinking outside of its usual environment, you can add a little apple juice or malt beer to the water. Very thin mash or a few apples in drinking water can also encourage you to drink more fluids. Here you have to try out a bit to see what the horse likes best. Some prefer to drink from buckets or only drink from a specific favorite bucket.

How do you recognize overheating and what can you do?

The horse's normal body temperature is 37.5° - 38.2° Celsius. After a training or competition, this may be increased for a short time, but should no longer be above 39° Celsius. Extreme overheating causes the body's proteins to break down and leads to a drop in blood pressure. Kidney failure and circulatory collapse are the result.
Overheating alarm signals:
  • the horse sweats excessively or suddenly stops sweating at all
  • A fold of skin on the horse's neck that is pulled between the fingers remains in place and does not recede
  • Colic symptoms
  • Vary
  • apathy
  • high pulse
  • shallow breathing
  • pale to slightly bluish mucous membranes
If you notice overheating, you need to act quickly so that the horse does not suffer any permanent damage. The “cooling” method is actually the method of choice here. The horse is showered with large amounts of water until the temperature returns to normal. Attention: Under no circumstances should the water remain on the horse for a long time, but must always be rinsed off with new water, otherwise it will have the opposite effect! In any case, a veterinarian must always be alerted!

How do you shower your horse correctly?

If you want to shower your horse after normal training or a ride, you should follow a few rules in midsummer to avoid circulatory problems and muscle pain. Start with the right hind leg, as this is furthest from the heart, then add the left hind leg and slowly shower both front legs and the neck. Since the long back muscle can react sensitively to cold water, it is important to work with a very soft jet of water. The water temperature should not be too cold so that the muscles do not cramp. If your horse shows discomfort in certain areas, it is better to wash them off with a sponge. The head should always be washed with a sponge.

What is the best way to dry your horse?

To avoid unwanted heat effects caused by the reflection of the water in the sun and to ensure that it dries more quickly, you should wipe your horse with a sweat knife. Some horses also find the dripping water annoying and hit it with their legs. If you want to treat your horse to a little extra wellness, let him roll in the sand after the shower. This also dries it and has a pleasant sand massage at the same time.

Do you have to supplement electrolytes in summer?

The salt-encrusted edges of the saddle girth give you an idea: horse sweat contains almost four times as much salt as ours. This also means that horses lose more minerals through sweat than we do. But don't worry: if the horse has access to a salt lick, it can regulate its salt loss very well on its own. Especially in the recreational area, the additional administration of electrolytes is unnecessary, even if the horse sweats a little.
For sport horses, giving electrolytes after a competition or training can definitely make sense. There are pastes, granules or powders that can be put directly into the mouth or into drinking water. However, these additional gifts do not replace the salt stone!

Other coolants for horses

The market now offers a large selection of coolants for horses. Pastes and cooling gels on the legs ensure long-lasting freshness and regeneration. However, it is important to pay attention to whether the ingredients are ADMR-compliant and, if not, how long a break should be after use. Cooling gaiters also ensure longer and even cooling and are harmless in terms of doping regulations. There are also cooling blankets that can be activated in the water and then placed on the horse and cool it down comfortably for a long time. If you are lucky enough to have running water nearby, you can use it to refresh your horse's legs in a healthy and natural way.
If you watch your horse carefully and act with common sense, you will have a lot of fun riding even in midsummer temperatures.

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