Summer: the best of times and the worst of times for horse owners. While we may all enjoy the sunshine and warmer temperatures, these environmental changes can challenge the routines we have set for our horses.
In her Masterclass course, “Max Corcoran Teaches Horse Care for All Seasons,” eventing supergroom, event organizer and USEA President Max Corcoran gave our members some personal pearls of wisdom for caring for horses year-round. Read on for two of her most important tips for keeping your horse healthy and happy during the summer months.
1. The Science of Sweat
You aren’t the only one who should be working up a sweat during your ride - your horse should be, too! Sweating is critical for a horse’s health in summer months because it’s a key mechanism for regulating body temperature and cooling down. If you’re pouring sweat but your horse isn’t, and you notice him huffing and puffing, this is a big red flag.
Anhidrosis is a condition where a horse is unable to sweat normally, and it warrants a call to your vet. It’s usually not an emergency situation unless your horse begins showing signs of heat distress, but “it is something we need to manage,” says Max. “[Horses with anhidrosis] have lost their ability to cool themselves, so they need our help to cool down and resume sweating.”
This can be achieved through medications, coordinated by your vet. But, one common way to treat anhidrosis may be right in your fridge already. If your horse isn’t sweating as he should, you might crack open a cold one! In her Masterclass, Max suggests pouring a Guinness beer into your horse’s feed in the morning and at night as a quick fix to get them sweating again until your vet is able to come and properly assess your horse.
Getting your horse sweating is only part of the equation - nutrition also plays an important role. Your horse’s feed plan might need to be altered to help support him through different temperatures, environments, and work schedules. Electrolytes are a key supplement to remember! When horses sweat more, they lose electrolytes and it is important to ensure they get replenished.
“The potassium [found in electrolytes] helps regulate everything in their bodies,” Max says. One easy way to get electrolytes back into your horse is regular old table salt. Max suggests buying regular salt and light salt to create a blend to put into the horse’s feed. An extra bonus? Putting salt in your horse’s grain will make them thirsty, which encourages them to drink more and stay hydrated during the hotter months!
2. Rub A Dub Dub: Bathing Your Horse in the Summer
Now that you’ve got your horse sweating properly, you might want to bathe them every day. Don’t give in! It may be tempting, but try to avoid bathing your horse with soap and water on a daily basis. It’ll lead to dry skin and a coat depleted of its natural oils, which can actually make your horse more susceptible to sunburn, hives, and fungus.
At the most, Max believes you should be bathing your horse three times a week. Think ahead and create a bathing schedule, so you can time your horse’s hardest work days with bath days, she suggests. Maximize those “soapy days,” as she calls them, by matching them up with the days your horse will be doing the most work. If you’ve been vigorously sudsing away and find that your horse’s coat is looking a little lackluster, use a coat conditioning product or baby oil after a bath.
As always, there is an exception to this rule! If you are using boots or wraps on your horse, you should wash their legs whenever they have caked on dirt or sweat to get rid of anything that could cause skin irritation.
Not soaping up every day doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give them a rinse off when they are dirty or sweaty. “Horses can get sprayed off every single day. It’s actually really important to get that sweat and dirt off of them,” says Max.
"It may be tempting, but try to avoid bathing your horse with soap and water on a daily basis."
Rinsing them off also helps them cool down as the temperatures climb during the summer. In her Masterclass, Max dispels some of the myths around the best ways to rinse your horse off to cool them down. When you are hosing your horse to cool them down, it’s best to continuously apply water. However, when you stop, don’t forget to scrape that water off! “Don’t leave water sitting on them for more than a minute, because that’s when the water will heat up to their body temperature,” Max advises.
Want to learn more ways to keep your horse in tip-top shape during the summer months, as well as the rest of the year? Check out Max’s Masterclass for more helpful insights into caring for your horse all year round.
Feature image by The J'Taime by Jedd Johnstone.
Written by Editorial Staff
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