Summer is a universally busy time for horse owners! Whether it be horse shows, trail riding, rodeos—you name it! While you’re enjoying the long days, remember these tips to help ensure the summer riding season is fun and safe.
On average, horses need at least 5 gallons of water per day for body maintenance. This can easily double or triple when they’re working hard in hot weather. Bring water from home when you’re traveling, as some horses are picky about unfamiliar-tasting water. If a horse is exhausted or very hot, offer one gallon of water every 15 minutes until he has had his fill. Talk to your veterinarian about electrolyte dose and frequency, and always offer unlimited water after giving electrolytes because they can potentially worsen dehydration.
TIP: Try a little apple juice or Gatorade in your horse’s water! This can effectively mask strange-tasting water while on the road. Do it ahead of time so that your horse will be familiar with the taste!
2. Heat Exhaustion
Body temperatures can quickly rise above 104°F when exercising in heat and humidity, particularly if sweat isn’t evaporating. Other risk factors for overheating include obesity or poor fitness, heavy muscling, or a dark coat. For an overheated horse find shade if possible, and repeatedly douse him with copious cool water, using a scraper to remove it immediately. Continue until his temperature drops to 101°F or lower.
3. Sun Protection
Horses with pink around their muzzles or eyes suffer from sunburn. Human sunscreen that does not contain para-aminobenzoic acid is generally safe for use on horses on small areas of the body.
4. Trailering Safety
Don’t expect your horse to arrive at your destination fresh and ready to go; arrive the night before or allow a few hours for recuperation. Also remember that trailering stresses the immune system, which can result in “shipping fever” or, worst-case scenario, severe pneumonia. If your horse develops a cough or fever within a few days of a long trailer ride, call your veterinarian. And if the weather is hot, open all vents and windows (with appropriate bars in place), and never park your trailer in the sun for an extended period with horses inside.
5. Infectious Disease
Many events involve large numbers of stressed horses in small areas and/or the use of common water sources. Work with your veterinarian to develop a vaccination schedule for your horse. Many competitors arriving on show grounds are now required to have records of influenza and rhinopneumonitis vaccinations given every six months.
6. First Aid
Maintain a well-stocked first-aid kit in your barn and trailer and a smaller kit to put in your saddle bag for trail rides!
7. Travel Documents
Most states require a current negative Coggins (equine infectious anemia) test and health certificates prior to border entrance. A few states also require brand inspections, which you can schedule.
Remember to seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian before proceeding with any diagnosis, treatment, or therapy.