Horses, Horses, Horses!
September is here, which means there is about one more month of serious heat before the cooling effect of October comes our way. The cool of autumn will be very welcome. Most people and their animals are ready for it.
When the cooler days come, obviously there will be relief from the extreme heat, for this has been an unusually hot summer. It also will mean relief from the flies of the summer, which have been the requested main topic for my summer articles. The changing of seasons is not quite here though. The words "a long, hot summer" start to sound ominous when it is 100 degrees in the shade, and you know there is no relief until the autumn months.
How then do we and our horses hold up for the remainder of the summer heat? Dr. Jason Coe of the Oneonta Animal Hospital has some advice that will be helpful to those trying to beat the summer heat for their horses during the last month of the season.
First, make sure your horses have adequate access to shade during the daylight hours. The best source of protective shade is, of course, a barn or shed for them to go into, but even big shade trees will do. They just need to be able to get out of the heat of the direct sunlight.
Second, make sure they have ready access to water. They need to be able to drink at any time on hot days because their bodies will be sweating out so many electrolytes and so much fluid that they could easily become dehydrated without constant access to water. Dehydration, of course, could lead to some type of heat stress or possibly even mild heat stroke, both of which could kill a horse if not treated quickly, so this is serious.
Third, your horse will need access to an electrolyte source such as a salt or mineral block. Keeping a couple of salt blocks in the horses’ shady area is a good idea. They will munch on the blocks more because of the heat, so you want to make sure they have them right there in the shade so they do not have to go back into the heat of the day to consume their salt source. The combination of consuming more salt and the heat will cause them to drink much more water than usual. This is good because the intake of replacement electrolytes and fluids will keep them hydrated and healthy.
Fourth, if you are blessed with a barn or shed for your animals, then it is a great idea to keep fans blowing in the aisleways or stalls. This extra draft will help to keep your horses cooler and more comfortable, and make them less likely to develop any kind of heat related illness. (I know a breeze blowing on me when the heat is high feels really, really good!)
Fifth is fly control! Not only are flies a nuisance, but they can drive horses out of the cooler shade and back into the blazing sunshine and heat. There are many good products that you can purchase at your local Co-op that will help with the fly problem (by treating your horse and/or your barn), but the best remedy to diminish the fly population is keeping the barn area and pasture as clean as possible. As stated in a previous article of mine on fly control, there is a nationally respected entomologist (a professional bug man) named Jim Arends, who just happens to own horses, and who has a "Fly Checklist" for keeping flies at bay. The checklist is:
*Muck stalls daily.
*Spread manure away from horse facilities and harrow it into the soil.
*Chain-drag pastures to break up manure.
*Scrub water troughs weekly.
*Spray rafter and ceilings with residual insecticides.
*Cover feed containers.
*Clean up hoof trimmings.
I list this again because it so important that we keep these pests at bay so that our animals will not cause themselves damage by going into the heat of the day to get away from them.
This being said, Dr. Coe also recommends keeping your horses on a regular deworming program to help with eliminating flies from the equation. Your local Co-op has many good deworming products that will work very well, but always check with your vet to make sure you have your horses on the best program for them.
If we heed Dr. Coe’s advice, our horses should stay healthy even in the heat of the south’s long, hot summer. Just in case, it is wise to know how to recognize heat stress or possibly even mild heat stroke. If your animal appears to be overly tired, stressed, breathing heavy, or maybe even panicky, it could be heat stress or mild heat stroke. This is very serious, and you should hose your horse down completely with cool water. Continue to keep the cool water on them, and try to keep them as quiet and calm as possible. Call your veterinarian immediately.
Janet Bryant is a freelance writer from Oneonta.