8 essential tips to help keep your horse cool when temperatures soar

  • Temperatures are set to soar, so here are Horse & Hound’s top tips on how to cool down a horse when things get hot.

    1. If your horse is normally stabled at night and out during the day, consider reversing his turnout times to avoid the hottest temperatures and the worst of the flies.

    2. If your horse has to stay out all day, ensure there is somewhere he can escape from the direct sun, such as some trees or a field shelter. If there is no permanent shelter, you could use some sheeting to rig up a safe, temporary area of shade, so the horse has the option to choose the shade if it wishes to.

    3. If your horse is out during the day, a light coloured fly rug or summer sheet will work better than a dark coloured one for keeping the horse cool – white is best for reflecting the sun’s heat. A rug that has a loose weave material will allow the horse’s body heat and sweat to escape more than a tight weave, but it will also provide less effective protection from flies, so there is a trade off to consider. Wetting the rug while it is on the horse will further improve its cooling properties, so hosing the rug down while it is on the horse multiple times a day is worthwhile in the hottest temperatures.

    4. White areas on the face and heels are most commonly affected by sunburn because they have less skin pigment and hair coverage, so remember to apply suncream to these areas. A fly mask with UV protective properties may also be helpful.

    5. If your horse is stabled, setting up a stable fan out of reach of your horse may help to increase airflow and have a cooling effect. When your horse is out of the stable, spray the walls thoroughly with an insecticide to discourage stable flies from lingering there.

    6. If you have to transport your horse anywhere, leave as early as possible to avoid travelling in the heat and reduce the risk of getting stuck in traffic during the warmest part of the day. Professional transporters in the UK are not allowed to move horses in temperatures exceeding 30°C and it is recommended that private owners follow the same rules.

    7. If you are transporting your horse, make sure all suitable windows are open to keep fresh air flowing through the horsebox. If you have a roof vent, then opening only the rear section while you are moving helps to draw the hot air out of the vehicle while cool air can enter through the windows. On arrival, the roof vent should be opened fully, but also consider whether the horses will be cooler standing on the lorry or trailer out of direct sun (consider dogs left in hot cars), or whether they would be better off outside in the shade.

    How to cool down a horse quickly

    8. If you suspect that your horse may be suffering from heat stroke, put him in the shade and pour considerable amounts of cold water over his whole body, allowing the water to run off or evaporate without scraping off the excess liquid, as this is how best to cool down a horse quickly. You should also offer the horse water to drink every few minutes. If the horse appears wobbly (ataxic) then try to keep the horse walking in the shade, while continuing to apply cold water. If signs persist, contact your vet as a matter of urgency.

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