Summertime Riding and Care, by Jackie Brittain

Horse training in summer

Many horse owners have more time to spend with their horses during the summer vacation months and make plans for the show ring or trail riding.

With the summer comes periods of high temperatures that affect your horse physically. Certain precautions can be taken to insure that your horse remains hydrated and performs its best.

Preferably it is better to start a summer health management program in the late spring. Heat related issues begin over a period of time and can be prevented with good care.

Always have plenty of clean water available to your horse. I prefer cleaning water troughs once a week with white vinegar. Vinegar sanitizes and helps keep the algae under control.

Placement of your water trough or automatic waterers is critical to their cleanliness. If your horse’s water supply is under a tree or out in the open, it may require more cleaning due to leaves or even due to small animals that contaminate the water.

Your horse should have a free choice source of salt. I prefer a natural salt lick rock that is mined in Utah by Redmond Salt. Many salt “blocks” or “bricks” are processed with molasses and other additives to make its form.

Riding your horse in the summer.

Electrolytes are a great feed/water additive for horses in competition, riding or living in very hot climates. There are many available on the market and I prefer those that contain fewer additives such as sugars or coloring. Electrolytes must be given regularly and can be tapered off during the winter to save costs.

Feeding ingredients can be modified for hot weather and exercise. Be careful with the protein level of your hay. Alfalfa hay is very high in protein and should be cut back or eliminated. Grass hays are very good but can contain high sugar levels and it is important to check on the hay analysis reports when purchasing. Corn is another “high heat” creating source of energy to metabolize and not recommended.

Many feeds are now available with healthy ingredients designed specifically for your horse’s most efficient metabolism and therefore creating less work for their digestion and a “cooler” system to produce energy.

Offer your horse shelter from the sun. Your horse has the option of taking advantage of it or not. Some horses prefer the hot sun!

Use a sponge on the face.

Showering your horse before riding in hot weather is a great method to maintain cooling. I prefer taking a small sponge to the face and get them used to water between the ears. The poll is an area to bring a horses temperature down immediately and by using cool or cold water this can be done. Always take care not to get water down the ears.

Make sure your horse has more days to rest and recover during the hot summer. Use good common sense to gauge the amount of work you need from your horse during periods of excessive heat and both you and your horse will maintain good health during the summer months.

Jackie Brittain, Merriewold Morgans Trainer