We wish for the sun all winter, dreaming of warm days to ride out or even just do simple horse chores without getting soaked to the bone. But then when summer comes, and that sun gets a bit too excited, a bit too piercing…we wish for the rain to not go away, come back and play!
Australian summers are brutal, from mid-December to February you can expect at least every day to be at around 30 degrees (Celsius), and don’t worry there’ll be a few 40+ days thrown in as well.
So while you’re sweating away filling up waters and carting hay, so much that your wet body is making an excellent ski slope for the local fly population – how’s your horse doing?
PetMD says the signs of dehydration in your horse are
- Dullness in the eyes
- Dry skin and mouth
- Thick and sticky saliva
I don’t know about you, but that sounds like me every morning trying to avoid inhaling a mouth full of flies as I stagger around.
There are of course physical ways you can check, rather than going by what they look like, especially if your horse is a bit of a grump and party-pooper by nature.
This handy chart is from Redmond Equine (www.redmondequine.com).
Now, I personally have not seen a lot of people measuring the heart rate or temperature of their horses. I’m also one of those people, but recent situations has made me more aware. Come on guys, it’s not that big of an issue. Sticking a thermometer up your horse’s butt is no more awkward or gross than checking out his steaming piles of poos, cleaning out a bleeding or infected wound or sore, or hey, the icing on the cake, the good old willy wash. Get a cheapie digital thermometer and embrace the awkwardness, let it mold you into an aware horse owner!
As with anything, prevention is key, and if you don’t have some science experiment that can change the position of the sun, here are some simple things you can do to help your four-legged’s out.
- Plenty of fresh, clean water (while you risk a sip or two out of the bore water hose to cool your parched throat)
- Shade, whether natural or man-made (despite the fact you yourself refuse to wear a hat as you get enough time with helmet hair)
- Fly spray (although you’re thinking the new batch of flies this year have been born with a resistance to even the most lethal stuff)
- Don’t ride in the heat of the day (although you’d have to be like the Terminator to sign yourself up for that torture)
- Cover up – wait, what?
Yup. Cover up. No, not foundation, I’m meaning pop a rug on your horse. No I haven’t gone crazy! I’m not talking winter rug, I’m talking about something really light and breezy, and it completely depends on YOUR horse. You have to figure out whether it’s the best thing for them.
Dark horses can really be helped with a light flag rug, as the sun & heat reflects with the white rather than absorbing into their coat.
Light horses such as greys, or anything remotely white, are warned to be much higher risk for melanomas, so covering up once again in a thin cotton can help prevent that.
Pink snoz’s should be covered up by a fly veil with a nose flap, as these little suckers are easily burnt.
This golden child, who looks like a kid dressed up as a ghost for Halloween, is so ridiculously sensitive to flies, he ends up bleeding wherever they bite, and he runs himself around crazily to get away from them. Hence, this.
Nice big airy fly veil with the snozzy covered when tongue is in, hybrid half mesh half cotton combo (mini-skirting due to his hay belly and sudden growth spurt) and his recent addition to stop his legs bleeding, the fly boots.
However, rug & boots come off after the temp goes to 40 degrees or above. I find that it is too much for that level of heat, it makes me feel better, and he is often in the shade then at that point anyway.
I’m still in the testing stage of the fly boots. I am against keeping boots on for longer than a ride due to the risk of heat induced injury to the tendons. However, I keep feeling his legs and they are no hotter than the days he was without. Nevertheless, they only go on when pesky flies are around. I also have a strict routine with them – they get taken off every day at dinner, legs checked for rubbing or heat, brushed off (legs and boots) then popped back on. Every second night he goes without them as they get a hose down. Then in the morning they’re put back on. If he was at my house, I’d leave them off every night, but I think it’s asking too much of my agistment to pop them back on every morning.
So there we go, my thoughts on this horrid yet long-awaited weather. Aren’t we all glad we wished for sun all winter??
P.S: Please keep yourself cool as well as your horse, and be sun smart! These drama queens can’t look after themselves if you’ve got heatstroke or burnt yourself to a crisp.