By: Dr. Mike Guerini (www.dunmovinranch.com)
This past weekend I was at the Western States Horse Expo in Sacramento California. On Saturday I was working with a team of excellent horsewomen (Sher, Alison, Linda, and Karen) demonstrating Western Dressage. The temperature reached 108 F and of course we kept our demonstration short since we were focused on keeping the horse from being overheated.
As we unsaddled and worked on cooling the horses out we discussed some of the important lessons around cooling and bathing horses as well as dealing with the heat.
1) Never leave the water sitting on the skin as you are bathing or cooling your horse. We saw a few people dousing their horses with water and then not slicking that water off. Sure water can help cool but if it is left on the skin, it serves as an insulator and keeps that heat on the horse. You can actually overheat a horse who is soaking in water when the temperatures outside are hot to extremely hot. Water is a pretty good insulator and has the capacity to retain heat so get the water off and that thin layer left on the horse will evaporate and help in the cooling.
Spray your horse with cool water — beginning with his legs first — to help lower his body temperature. Scrape excess water off quickly because it soon rises to the temperature of the over-heated horse.
2) Make sure stalls are well ventilated with cross breezes (air can move in and out of the stall) or make sure your horse can move out of the stall on his/her own free will.
3) Keep your horse from standing in the direct sunlight on these extremely hot days.
4) Another reminder is that if you use cool/cold water, do not apply this directly to large muscles that have just finished a rigorous workout. Lukewarm water is better. A sudden burst of cold water on large muscles can shock those muscles and cause the horse either stress, pain or injury.
5) If you suspect heat stress with your horse — call your veterinarian immediately. Always consult your veterinarian for any medical emergencies.
Some signs of Heat Stroke include
- Temperature above 104 degrees F. (A normal temperature is 99-100.8 degrees F.)
- Rapid heart and pulse rates that do not recover within 10 or 15 minutes after exercise.
- Rapid breathing that does not slow down after exercise.
- Less sweat than expected.
- Hot skin (might progress to cold if skin circulation shuts down).
- Signs of dehydration, including loss of skin elasticity, sunken eyes, tacky membranes and cessation of urination.
You can learn more about some of the professionals Dr. Mike worked with this past weekend by clicking on the name here — Sher Bell Boatman
Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician, author of multiple Horsemanship books, co-inventor of the Equine Hydro-T and specializes in western performance based instruction and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at www.dunmovinranch.com. Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (www.hydrot.com).