Equines - Things to do this Month - Summer
Horses, Ponies, Donkeys and Mules
Long summer days can be idyllic for riding out in the countryside, but hot weather brings its own set of challenges with biting flies and the possibility of heat stress. Follow our summer welfare tips to keep horse and rider happy.
- Having originated in hot, arid areas, horses are relatively tolerant of the levels of heat we can expect in the average British summer, but will welcome some shade in the form of a field shelter, trees or tall hedges
- A source of fresh, clean water is essential at all times; in hot weather a 16hh horse can drink between 20-40 litres a day, depending on its level of activity
- If horses over-heat during or after exercise (including galloping around the field to escape from biting flies) they can suffer from dangerous heat stress
- Try to ride or exercise your horse in the early morning or late afternoon when it’s a little cooler
- After exercise, your horse will appreciate a good wash or gentle hose-down with cool, clean water
- Hooves often need more attention in the summer: they may need more frequent attention from the farrier as they tend to grow faster and can dry out leading to cracks; you can help by applying hoof moisturiser, if this is a problem for your horse
- Horses with pink areas of skin, or white noses, can suffer badly from sunburn, so apply a horse-friendly, waterproof sunscreen every morning to all vulnerable areas
- Summer biting flies can be a serious nuisance: feeding garlic to your horse, which then sweats the scent is said to help repel flies, and there are numerous spray-on repellents – but in our experience, they have limited effect!
- The alternative is to clothe your horse in a fly-fringe or face-mask, together with a UV reflective mesh rug – these both keep biting flies off the horse, as well as preventing sunburn on sensitive areas and bleaching of the coat
- White or pink areas on the horse, for example around the muzzle area, can be seriously sunburned, so apply UV block daily to all sensitive areas
- Ragwort is now rife in the countryside, so if this is a problem in your area see if you can organise a group to remove it from areas that may be accessed by equines, but remember – wear gloves at all times as the plant is equally poisonous to humans as it is to equines
- Another plant that is injurious to horses and humans is St John’s Wort – the sap can cause serious photosensitisation
- And finally, however hot the weather, don’t be tempted to ride out on roads without hi-viz gear for you and your horse – there may be more traffic on the roads, with urban drivers unaware of the need to slow down and give horses a wide berth.