The Pivoriders Team
Many equestrians consider summer to be the best time of year. Horses are finally shed out, show season is in full swing, the weather is finally agreeable enough to trail ride, and students have more time to ride during summer break. However, the summer heat also brings an array of potential health risks for your horse. They can develop heat exhaustion, weakened hooves, swollen eyes, itchy skin, sunburn, and more. Special care must be taken during the summer months to ensure your horse stays happy and healthy. We have compiled a list of the best tips for keeping your horse healthy in the summer.
Make sure they are fully protected before they go outside.
The sun, flies, and other bugs can make your horse uncomfortable while they try to graze and can even cause damage to their hooves and skin. When horses are irritated by flies, they stomp their hooves to try to get rid of them, which can cause their hooves to crack and chip. Biting insects can create painful, itchy welts on your horse’s skin. Besides the usual bug bites, biting gnats can cause an allergic reaction called sweet itch, which makes horses severely itchy to the point that they risk damaging their skin from their scratching. And of course, the sun’s harmful UV rays can leave horses (especially those with pink skin) more susceptible to sunburn.
The best way to combat the dangers of the outdoors is to gear your horse up like they are headed to battle. Fly sheets, fly masks, and fly boots lessen the effects of annoying bugs while also providing UV protection. For horses with pink skin or sun sensitivity, unscented sunscreen should be applied often to protect vulnerable areas on their face.
Use salt and electrolytes to keep them hydrated.
Hydration is important in the summer. The summer heat causes them to sweat more and get dehydrated easily. Dehydration makes your horse more prone to heat exhaustion and heat stroke, the latter being potentially fatal. A good way to make sure they stay hydrated is to keep a salt block in their stall or paddock. Salt naturally makes them thirsty and encourages them to drink more water. Adding electrolytes to their water can also encourage them to drink more. This is especially helpful when you are traveling, because sometimes horses are reluctant to drink unfamiliar water. There are specialized equine products on the market like Rein Water and Whinny Water, and you can also use Gatorade in a pinch.
Pick your horse’s hooves often.
Warm, wet, humid weather provides the perfect conditions for bacteria and fungi to thrive. Muddy pastures can make your horse prone to developing thrush. Thrush is an infection that affects the frog. In severe cases, the infection can penetrate the sensitive structures of the hoof and cause lameness. The best way to prevent thrush is to keep their hooves clean by picking them out daily. Try to keep them on dry footing when possible. It is also a good idea to keep a bottle of Thrush Buster or a similar product around, so you can quickly treat it if they develop it.
Apply hoof moisturizing and strengthening products.
As previously mentioned, the constant stomping of flies can lead to your horse’s hooves cracking and chipping. This is further exacerbated by the fact that their hooves tend to dry out in the hot summer months. To prevent cracking and keep their hooves strong, apply hoof moisturizing and strengthening products often. If your horse is extremely prone to chipping, they might need to wear bell boots or hoof boots for even more protection.
Keep anti-fungal sprays and shampoos on hand.
Thrush isn’t the only fungal infection that runs rampant in the summer. There is also a diverse lineup of infections that affect the skin, including rain rot, ringworm, and scratches. Keeping your horse in a dry environment can help prevent these infections. However, sometimes that is not enough, and they still develop a fungal infection. If left untreated, fungal infections can quickly spread and become very painful for your horse. That is why it is good to keep topical fungicides, like sprays or shampoos, on hand to quickly treat them.
Check your pasture and hay for toxic plants.
There are a variety of different toxic plants that could be growing in your pasture. Poison hemlock, nightshade, milkweed, fescue, and alike clover are just a few plants that can have damaging effects for horses if consumed. In pregnant mares, fescue can cause abortions and other issues. Alsike clover can cause photosensitivity, a condition that makes your horse blister and burn in the sun. Look up a list of toxic plants and check your pasture to make sure your horse is not in danger.
Don’t let a health problem ruin your summer fun. While the sun, flies, and other elements can have damaging effects for your horse, proper care will help prevent this. Follow these tips to make sure your horse stays healthy so you can enjoy the warm weather together.
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