Caring for horses in the heat

In order to keep your horse/s happy and healthy during very hot weather, here are some things to consider:

  • Rugging in hot weather should be done so carefully. Over-rugging in summer can become a huge welfare issue as horses rely on sweating to maintain a safe core body temperature. When a rug is used, air cannot pass over their body to evaporate the sweat and cool their body.

  • Synthetic or heavy canvas rugs are NOT suitable for use on a hot day. Heat exhaustion, also called heat stress, is a life-threatening condition that develops when a horse is unable to cool himself by sweating.

  • Signs of heat stress in your horse include rapid respiratory rate or laboured breathing, elevated temperature at rest, unusual sweating response (too much or too little sweat), lethargy and decreased appetite.

  • A white, summer cool sheet can be effective in reflecting the heat and harmful UV rays, particularly if your horse has areas of sensitive pink skin or your horse has a dark coloured coat.

  • On average horses in hot weather at rest can drink up to 60L a day. This will increase if the horse is exercised and electrolyte replenishment must be included if the horse is worked on a hot day. If possible do not work your horses in the heat of the day.

  • Horses turned out should have access to shade otherwise if possible, move them inside to a well ventilated stable or covered yard.

  • Horses with pink areas of skin, particularly in the muzzle area are prone to burning. Like human sunburn this is extremely painful. Zinc or shade flaps should be considered as a preventative measure.

Our social licence is critical for the longevity of our industry and we are all aware that the public are scrutinising our every move. As an industry we need to continue to ensure we are exceeding animal welfare standards.