Courtesy of Vale Shelters
It’s fair to say that summer is synonymous with happiness – and with good reason. There’s so much to enjoy about this season, whether it’s lounging by the pool, soaking up the sun’s rays, or even celebrating with a cookout. But most horse lovers would agree that the best part about summer finally arriving is that we can spend more time riding and caring for our horses.
However, the reality is that increases in summer heat can be a pain if you don’t have effective ways to keep your horse cool. Your top priority as a horse owner should be to ensure your horse is healthy. Overexposure to sunlight and heat can cause a myriad of problems for your horse, such as dehydration, lethargy, colic or even diarrhea.
Follow the 5 steps for success below for the full lowdown on caring for and stabling your horse when the temperatures rise.
1. Create a shady area.
Of critical importance is to make sure your horse has access to shade, especially during midday when temperatures can soar. Of course, not every paddock or field will have a wealth of shady areas for your horse to rest and cool down. But don’t worry! You can create a nice sliver of shade using a field shelter. Plus, the great thing about field shelters is they provide protection from the elements all year round. Mobile field shelters are the perfect option for those looking to move their shelter around, to take advantage of weather conditions and to enable grass to recover.
Alternatively, stables make a great option for those looking for a more permanent solution. As long as your stable has appropriate ventilation, you should be able to keep your horse cool during even the hottest hours of the day.
If your stable is in need of an upgrade, seek an equestrian building specialist, like Vale Stables. Vale Stables specialize in designing and building customized stables matching your needs, providing shelter throughout the year
2. Protect your horse’s pink skin.
At the end of the day, you want to ensure your horse enjoys this season just as much as you do. But the sun can quickly become a problem if you don’t apply sunscreen to protect your horses’ pink skin from UV rays. Yes, humans aren’t the only ones who have to use sun protection during the summer months. Although the sunshine can boost Vitamin D production and ensure the proper functioning of bones, joints and muscles, your horse should not spend hours on end basking in the sun, as this can lead to sunburn.
You’re probably wondering what the solution is. Well, it definitely is not stabling your horse 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. To protect your horse from potential sun damage, invest in a quality sunscreen. Applying a high SPF sunscreen should be an essential part of your summer horse care routine. Sunscreens containing zinc oxide is particularly effective, as they don’t absorb harmful rays. Instead, it remains on the skin surface and reflects or blocks rays, almost acting as amour against UV rays rather than a second layer of skin. It’s no surprise then that zinc oxide has been heralded as a miracle sun protectant. Don’t forget to regularly reapply the sunscreen throughout the day to ensure maximum protection.
It’s worth noting that horses with white markings, light coats and pink-skinned areas are susceptible to sun damage. So, it’s important to look out for the classic signs of sun damage, such as peeling skin and redness. If you notice that your horse is sun burnt, it’s important to get them in the shade as soon as possible. You should also consult your vet about treating the affected areas, as they will be able to recommend the best products available to soothe and rehydrate the skin.
3. Clip your horse’s coat.
If you want to keep your trusty steed cool this summer, it’s a good idea to clip its coat. It can be difficult for a horse with a thick coat to cool down when the heat picks up, as thick coats will hold more heat. Having said that, it’s important to remember coats provide some protection against harmful rays, so try not to clip the hair too short. After all, the closer the coat is to the skin, the more susceptible your horse will be to sun damage.
How short you clip the hair will also depend on how light your horse’s coat is. If your horse has a light coat, it’s sensible to use a medium blade when clipping to leave your horse with enough coverage. You’ll also need to think carefully about which areas you will need to clip, as some areas will need clipping more than others. Chief among these are the neck and underbelly, which are more prone to overheating and sweating.
4. Keep The Flies Away.
Let’s face it, flies are a pretty big nuisance when summer rolls around. They feed on blood and their bites can lead to infections. Fly sprays are an absolute lifesaver when the temperature picks up. Alternatively, you may decide to invest in a fly rug, a lightweight and reflective cover. This will keep flies and the sun off your horse, helping them stay cool and comfortable during the summer months.
5. Adjust your stabling schedule.
As the days get longer and the weather gets warmer, you may want to consider adjusting your schedule. A typical stabling schedule would be to turn your horse out during the day and stable them at night. While this may work throughout most of the year, you may want to switch up stabling times during the summer months.
For example, you could put your horse out in the early morning and then stable them during the middle of the day when the temperature is at its highest. You can then turn your horse out again in the evening when the weather begins to get slightly cooler again.
If your horse is competing, it makes sense to plan your travel time in accordance with the weather. Standing in a horse box while in traffic, when temperatures are soaring, can be really uncomfortable for your horse, and potentially lead to heatstroke. With this in mind, you may want to avoid traveling during the hottest hours of the day.
Whatever adjustments you make, don’t forget that too much change can overwhelm your horse and negatively impact their health. To avoid distressing your horse, it’s a good idea to find a suitable schedule early on that will work throughout the season.
Photos courtesy Vale Shelters and Larry Grambort