Summer months are ideal for getting outside and enjoying the warmer weather and longer days. But extremely hot weather can create an uncomfortable and often dangerous environment for horses, especially older horses and young foals.
The good news is, there are many things you can do to keep your horses safe when hot temps creep into your area. Let’s look at seven best practices to help them beat the heat:
- Proper Ventilation
- Water Access
- Adequate Shade
- Fly Protection
- Proper Turnout Schedule
- Reduced Ride Time
- Knowing the Danger Signs
1. Proper Ventilation
Proper ventilation increases air flow through your horse barn and ensures a cool breeze. Installing large fans in a barn improves ventilation, but their location is key for optimal performance and safety. Fans should always be installed where horses can’t have physical contact with the fans or their power supply.
You can also create natural ventilation by choosing a location for your horse barn that takes advantage of wind direction. Creating openings toward prevailing winds allows a natural breeze to enter. This is something we always look at when building a new horse barn.
2. Water Access
Horses should have access to plenty of water sources year-round, but it’s even more important in hot weather. Horses sweat to stay cool and have a heightened risk for dehydration if they don’t have good water access.
To provide fresh, clean water sources, make sure multiple buckets are frequently topped off and kept cool in the field or in the stable (or both!). Installing an automatic water trough is also smart way to keep horses hydrated. Check troughs and buckets regularly to make sure they are always clean. This will prevent algae and bacteria growth, which can be dangerous to horses.
3. Adequate Shade
Horses enjoy shade — and it’s a necessity in hot weather. Trees with large foliage are a good natural source of shade, but depending on the time of day, the amount of protection they offer is limited. Building a field shelter is another way to provide shade and safety from the sun. It can also provide protection from the rain.
Even with ample amounts of shelter and shade, be on the lookout for signs of sunburn, especially on white and light-colored horses. If there are signs of a burn, get the horse out of the sun and cool the affected area with water. Consult your vet for serious sunburns, as well as about the best preventative products to use.
4. Fly Protection
When hot weather comes around, so do increased numbers of flies, midges, and mosquitos. Fly masks and fly sheets are helpful to keep pests to a minimum. White-colored fly sheets can also help direct sunlight and heat away, especially from horses with darker coats.
Always keep your barn clean to minimize flies. Pick up droppings regularly from the paddock and stable, and keep the mess away from where the horses are. A well-designed horse barn with proper storage and waste areas can help with overall cleanliness as well as functionality.
5. Proper Turnout Schedule
If high temps and humidity are common in your area, adjust your horse’s turnout schedule. Overnight turnout is best, but if that’s not possible, then late evening after the heat has subsided is recommended. Early morning is also a good time, when the air and pasture grass temperatures are lower.
6. Reduced Ride Time
When the weather is hot, ride your horse during the early morning or late evening hours. Avoid the hottest hours between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm. And if the weather is extremely hot, consider not riding at all.
If you do ride, switch to a shaded location like the woods. Keep the ride shorter in length and lower in physical intensity, with frequent breaks so the horse can cool down. Also have access to lots of fresh, cool, clean water.
After riding, make sure the horse is hosed off or sponged down. This not only helps cool them off but also removes dry sweat, which can irritate a horse and cause itchiness. Having wash stalls and misters in your barn will keep your horses cool and comfortable.
7. Know the Danger Signs
Heat exhaustion is a serious condition to look out for in hot weather. Here are the danger signs to be aware of:
- Fast breathing/panting
- Elevated heart rate or irregular heartbeat
- Eating and drinking less
- Dark urine
- Muscle spasms
- Poor riding performance
If you suspect heat exhaustion, move the horse to a cool, shaded space and hose him down. Follow up with a call to your vet.
Build a Horse Barn for the Dog Days of Summer
While some of these best practices — like changing turnout time or reducing ride time — require just a simple change in your schedule, other tasks may be more challenging unless you have proper horse barn construction.
If you’re finding it difficult to keep your horses comfortable this summer in their current living or riding environment, connect with B&D Builders. Now is the perfect time to discuss your needs and start planning for renovations or a new custom barn build — so by next summer, you’ll be fully equipped to beat the heat.