For those of you in the Southern Hemisphere the Summer season is just about upon you. Soon you'll be packing away the heavy coats and jumpers and pulling out the the cotton tops and sunscreen. Here are some tips on surviving the heat and everything else that comes with it.
- Buy some horse safe flyspray. Trust me you are going to need it. When the flys are many horse are continually stomping their feet to get rid of the irritating little insects. Frequent stomping can lead to tendon, tendon sheath problems and it can also loosen shoes since horses don't have the same twitch reflex as they do on their upper bodies. Fly Masks are also a great peice of equipment to keep those blasted things from irritating your horses eyes. For more on keeping flys away check out this article.
- Are your rugs ready? You may have already put your Summer rugs on your horses but if you haven't pull them out of storage now and check them over. If they need repairing send them off to be done or if you know how to do it yourself get onto it. Send your Winter and Spring rugs off to be washed, mended and waterproofed ready for next time. Also make sure your fly sheets and show rugs are in good repair.
- Exposed, unpigmented white and pink areas of a horse like the nose can get sunburnt easily. Protect your horse with sunscreen or a nose shade.
- Along with the rain and sun of Spring and Early Summer along comes Laminitis aka Founder. Horses and ponys who have suffered from laminitis before are more likely to get it again. By clicking on the link above you will be taken to a great page the explains all about Laminitis including causes, signs and treatment. Its a good idea to check it out.
- Have shade available in the paddocks. This can be anything from trees to a stable. I hear of many people putting fans in their stables and their horses have access to them at all times.
- Hot and humid weather can be hard on all horses, creating extra stress on the cardiovasicular system which can result in heat stress, and dehydration which can then lead to heat stroke and even death. If a horse fails to regulate its body temperature or when there is excessive fluid and electrolyte loss from sweat, serious medical problems can occur. If your horse is sweating a lot make sure you keep an eye out for heat stress signs such as:
- Temperature above 40C (normal is 37.2C to 38.2C)
- Rapid heart and pulse rates that don't recover after exercise.
- Rapid breathing that doesn't slow after exercise
- Less sweat then expected
- Hot skin (this might progress to cold skin if the circulation shuts down)
- Signs of dehydration which include loss of skin elasticity, sunken eyes and
ceassation of urination.
If you suspect your horse is suffering from heat stress call your vet immediately. Get your horse into the shade in a well ventilated area and sponge or spray the large blood vessles along the inside of the legs and belly with cold water.
Make sure cool, clean and freash water is always avaliable to horses during the summer months. Some horses are very picky about dirty or foreign water. If you think your horse isn't drinking enough try adding mollasses to his water. Some horses need electrolytes during the summer, especially if they are being worked hard and sweating eccesively. Talk to your vet about adding electrolytes to your horses diet. If you can try exercise your horse in the cool of the morning or evening. As well as being nice on your horse it can be nice on you too.
- Travelling with your horse in summer requires some special consideration. Heat can be unbearable in a trailer or float. If you can try driving in the early morning or evening, or even possibly at night. Offer water frequently to your horse. Avoid covering him in the float. If you are going on a long trip with your horse, let him off the float to have a break or two, take off his hot horse boots so he can air his legs. Plan to miss the traffic, its going to be much hotter sitting in traffic than if your driving at 70km an hour along the motorway.
- The ground is going to be hard in the summer so remember to think about your horses legs. This is especially important if your horse is old or has bad joints, or if your jumping or doing cross country. If you think the ground is too hard, especially at competition just don't ride. Your horse could be far more worse off if you do decide to ride.
- Make sure you cool your horse down properly after a ride. Walk him around for about 10 minutes and then hose him off. Scrape the excess water off and hose him again. Again scrape the excess water off. If you don't scrape the excess water off it can make your horse hotter.
- Look after yourself. All you New Zealanders are going to remember those old slip, slop and slap ads. You know 'Slip on a t-shirt, slop on some sunscreen and slap on a hat'. Well that informatins still counts, when your riding or working with your horses in the hot sun make sure your being 'sun smart'. If you don't follow these rules your going to get sunburnt which can then lead to melanoma. Trust me you don't want this. I know a few people who've had this and they've had to have big chunks of flesh cut out. Also make sure you have a water bottle on hand at all times. Don't let yourself get dehydrated. Be smart!
So there you have it. Look after your horses this summer. Now that daylight savings is here you'll have more time to ride then ever! Happy trails.