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Hot Weather Horse Care: Tips for Keeping Equine Companions Cool and Comfortable

Caring for Horses in Hot Weather

As horse owners, it is our responsibility to keep our beloved companions healthy and comfortable in all weather conditions. However, during hot and humid weather, horses can be particularly susceptible to several potentially severe conditions.

In this article, we will discuss ways to recognize the signs of horse overheating, first aid for horses suffering from heat exhaustion or heatstroke, the importance of providing proper shelter and hydration, and tips for horseback riding or traveling with horses during hot weather.

Signs of Horse Overheating

A horse’s internal temperature ranges between 37C and 38C (98.6F and 101.3F), and if it rises above that level, it can lead to heat exhaustion or heatstroke. Some signs of overheating include a rapid rise in temperature, rapid breathing and heart rate, increased sweating, staggering, lethargy, spasms of the muscles, decrease in drinking and loss of appetite, less frequent urination, and darker urine.

First Aid for Horses Suffering from Heat Exhaustion or


If you suspect your horse is suffering from heat exhaustion or heatstroke, immediately call your veterinarian and start cooling the horse down. Move the horse to a shaded area and wet the animal down with lukewarm water.

Do not use cold water, as this can cause shock. Fan the horse to increase airflow and circulation.

Placing ice packs on the horse’s neck, groin, and under its front legs can also help lower its temperature. It is important to monitor the horse’s vital signs and resume cooling the horse if the temperature rises again.

Providing Proper Shelter for Your Horse

Shelter is an important consideration when it comes to protecting horses from the heat. Whether in a stable or outdoor setting, stable ventilation, air exchange, airflow, and temperature control are crucial.

Ceiling fans can help create airflow in an enclosed space, while installing an outdoor shelter, like a run-in shed, can provide shade and natural ventilation. During hot weather, keeping the stable doors and windows open can also help improve airflow and temperature control.

Keeping Your Horse Hydrated

Adequate hydration is critical for maintaining a horse’s health in hot weather. Horses require fresh water, and during summer, they may drink more than usual.

Monitor your horse’s water intake and refill the buckets or troughs frequently, ensuring that the water remains clean. Salt intake, electrolytes, and haylage can also help maintain hydration levels in your equine companion.

Horseback Riding in Hot Weather

Scheduling rides and exercising your horse during the cooler hours of the day, such as early morning or late evening, can help prevent heat exhaustion. Avoiding high humidity levels, which can reduce the horse’s ability to cool itself, is also essential.

Be sure to check the heat index before planning a ride and make sure your horse is well-hydrated before and after exercising.

Traveling with Horses in Hot Weather

When traveling with horses during hot weather, it is important to monitor the temperature and humidity levels inside the trailer. A water supply system, with regular stops for drinking, can help keep the horse hydrated on long journeys.

Increasing the space between horses, checking road conditions, and traveling during cooler times of the day, can also contribute to a safer and less stressful trip for the horses.

The Effects of the Sun on Horses

The sun’s effects on horses can include dehydration, heatstroke, phototoxic and photoallergic reactions, and even skin cancer.


Exposure to the sun can lead to sweating and water loss, which can result in dehydration. Young and elderly horses are particularly at risk, as are equines that are working, pregnant, or lactating.

Providing ample access to fresh, cool water, electrolytes, and high water-content feeds, like haylage, can help prevent dehydration.


The theory behind heatstroke is that on hot and humid days, a horse’s cooling mechanisms become overwhelmed, resulting in overheating and a breakdown of normal thermoregulation processes. This can cause symptoms such as rapid breathing, sweating, and lethargy.

The horse’s internal temperature can rise above 105F, which is life-threatening. Treatment involves cooling the horse using the methods outlined above for heat exhaustion.

Phototoxic and Photoallergic Reactions

Photosensitivity, or the skin’s sensitivity to sunlight, can lead to phototoxic and photoallergic reactions. Certain medications, like NSAIDs and antibiotics, can make horses more photocensitive.

Horses with unpigmented skin, such as gray or white, are also more susceptible to sunburn. Symptoms may include skin lesions, blistering, and scabbing, which can be treated with ointments and topical medications.

Skin Cancer

Prolonged exposure to UV radiation can lead to skin cancer in horses, particularly in horses with pink skin around the eye area and other unpigmented areas. It is essential to provide adequate sun protection, such as fly masks, sunscreen, and shade, to reduce the risk of lesions or tumors.


Summer weather can be challenging to horses, and it’s important to take steps to mitigate the risks of heat exhaustion, dehydration, photosensitivity, and skin cancer. Providing proper shelter, hydration, and cooling, monitoring the horse’s vital signs, and being mindful of the heat index and humidity can help keep horses healthy and comfortable during the hot months.

Essential Care for Horses in Hot Weather

High temperatures and humidity levels can be tough on horses, and it’s important to take the necessary steps to keep them comfortable and healthy. Here are some essential tips for caring for your equine companion during the hot summer months.

Water, Shade, and Shelter

Water is essential for maintaining a horse’s health and well-being in hot weather. Horses can drink up to 10-15 gallons of water per day, so it is critical to provide clean and fresh water sources available at all times.

Ensure that water troughs are cleaned regularly and topped up throughout the day. Equally important is providing high-quality shade and protection from the sun.

This shade should be adequate in size and structure to accommodate all the horses in pasture or turnout areas and kept in a good condition. The provided shade should help avoid the risk of overheating and regulate body temperature.

It is essential to position shelters within the turnout area to reduce the wandering of horses during heat changes.

Fit and Healthy Horses

Ensuring that your horse is fit and healthy is key to preventing heat exhaustion or heatstroke. A horse that is obese or overweight can quickly become overheated, especially if they have a heavy workload.

Regulating feed and activity levels is important to maintain a healthy horse in the best condition possible. It is recommended to have a veterinarian perform a wellness check on horses to ensure their health status before the start of summer activities.

For performance horses or horses used in competition, restrictions on high-exertion work, and possible schedule screenings may be put in place.

Optimal Conditions for Horses

Horses are most comfortable at temperatures ranging between 40-60F, and it is essential to strive for conditions similar to these during hot weather. Proper ventilation, airflow, and climate control are necessary in stables to support equine life.

Stables should be kept cool, well-ventilated, and dry. The internal structure should be clean and free of any condensation for the horse’s health.

It is critical to keep horses from being exposed to unnecessary risks during the heat as this can lead to heat-related illnesses. Horses are vulnerable to sunburn, so applying sunscreen or using a fly mask can help reduce sun exposure.

A regular check up of the horse’s skin should be done for any possible signs of sun damage.

Hot Weather Care

Ensuring sufficient water intake and electrolyte replacement is critical for horses in hot temperatures. The use of an electrolyte supplement like Equine Bluelite or a salt lick is recommended to help horses recover the electrolytes they lose through sweat.

It is recommended to offer electrolyte supplements or alternatives 2-3 times a week to keep them hydrated and healthy. Use of fly sprays and fans in stables and indoor places can also be useful in providing relief from the heat.

It is important to ensure all fans and sprays are placed in a position to be accessible for the horse’s comfort while maintaining their safety. Regular grooming can help maintain the horse’s skin and shedding of its winter coat.

Regular trimming or management of the horse’s coat can minimize the horse’s exposure to excessive amounts of hair. During shedding season, it is crucial to allow horses to be groomed regularly to prevent the buildup of their winter coats.

Resources for

Caring for Horses in Hot Weather

There are several resources available for horse owners to learn more about how to care for their horses during hot weather. These include:

– RSPCA who provides horse care guidance for the summer months.

– University of Minnesota Extension provides useful information on horse care in hot weather. – Elite Equine offers advice specifically for owners of horses living in hot and humid climates.

– British Horse Society provides guidance for horse owners on how to care for their horses during the summer months. – Finer Stables offers advice on how to maintain stable ventilation and checklist for building or renovating stables.

– National Animal Supplement Council provides guidance on horse care in hot weather, providing its members’ standards for the nutraceutical industry. – Your Horse provides guidance on hydration and additional tips on how to keep horses happy and healthy.

– Baillie Haylage provides information about the benefits of haylage compared to hay, which can be a better option during hot weather. – Equiculture offers guidance on how to provide shade and shelter to horses during hot weather.

– Hunter Stables offers solutions to horse shelters, including ventilation, run-ins, and barns that prioritize horse health, comfort, and safety. – European Commission provides insights on horse care during extreme temperatures and the impact of the weather on the susceptible areas.

– Dover Saddlery offers tips for horseback riding during hot weather, including the choice of apparel, short rides, and mandatory water and rest. In conclusion, it is key to follow the proper care for horses during hot weather.

Provision of adequate water supply, shade, and shelter, fit and healthy horses, optimal living conditions are essential to minimizing the risks of heat exhaustion and heatstroke in equine pets. Further guidance on how to care for horses in summer months can be obtained through various resource centers.

In conclusion, caring for horses in hot weather is essential to maintaining their health and well-being. Owners should provide water, shade, and shelter, ensure that horses are fit and healthy, and strive for optimal living conditions that minimize unnecessary risks.

Horse owners should also be familiar with the resources available to help care for their animals and seek medical attention if they suspect their horses are at risk of heat exhaustion or heatstroke. By following these guidelines, horse owners can keep their equine companions happy, healthy, and safe during the hot summer months.


Q: How much water do horses need to drink during hot weather? A: Horses can drink up to 10-15 gallons of water per day, so clean and fresh water sources should be available at all times.

Q: How can horse owners prevent heat exhaustion or heatstroke in their horses? A: Ensuring that horses are fit and healthy, providing adequate shade and shelter, and monitoring their vital signs can help prevent heat exhaustion or heatstroke.

Q: What are some resources available to help horse owners care for their animals during hot weather? A: Resources include RSPCA, University of Minnesota Extension, Elite Equine, British Horse Society, Finer Stables, National Animal Supplement Council, Your Horse, Baillie Haylage, Equiculture, Hunter Stables, European Commission, and Dover Saddlery.

Q: What is the optimal temperature range for horses? A: Horses are most comfortable at temperatures ranging between 40-60F.

Q: How can horse owners provide relief for their animals during hot weather? A: Measures such as applying sunscreen, using fly sprays and fans, and regular grooming can help provide relief from the heat.

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