Last updated on September 25, 2023
3 Tips to Keep Your Horses Healthy in the Summer Heat
The days are long, the temperatures are hot, the grill is smoking…it’s summer time! And while these months are usually known for its fun and laid back atmosphere, the summer heat can also be a dangerous time for animals (and people). High temperatures and extreme humidity can be contributing factors to dehydration, and heat exhaustion/ heat stroke can be real threats as well. Not to mention those pesky flies buzzing around! But that doesn’t mean summer can’t be an enjoyable time with your horse! We compiled 3 easy ways to keep your horses comfortable and safe during the summer months without sacrificing all the fun things you might have planned.
Keep Horses Hydrated and Replenish Electrolytes
Yep, you guessed it: the number one thing to do in the summer is to make sure your horse stays plenty hydrated! Dehydration can happen quickly, especially in extreme summer heat and high humidity. Keep the water clean and cool as possible (horses prefer water between 45-65 degrees Fahrenheit), and have open access to it. Some horses are pickier than others about the taste of their water, so if that’s your horse, consider bringing water from home when traveling. This will help ensure they drink enough, and not hold out because it tastes funny. Soaking your horse’s hay and grain in water helps prevent choking and adds another layer of hydration as well.
Electrolytes are “substances that have a natural positive or negative electrical charge when dissolved in water…they help your body regulate chemical reactions, maintain the balance between fluids inside and outside your cells, and more.”  Basically that means they control muscle and nerve function, and keep the body hydrated. Electrolytes are ingested through food and drink and include sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium  and they are released through urine and sweat. So the more your horse sweats, the more electrolytes they lose. The more electrolytes they lose, the higher the risk of severe health issues (like dehydration, impaction colic, and overheating) occurring.
Feeding Mineral 201 can help prevent dehydration and give vital electrolytes to your horse. It contains calcium, magnesium, and sodium to help with electrolytes and hydration, as well as other minerals and probiotics for overall health. Foundation Daily Detox is also packed full of essential vitamins and minerals that help prevent dehydration and electrolyte loss in the summer heat (and year round).
Try to Avoid Exercise/Work During Hottest Times of Day
Horses generate a lot of body heat by just existing. Because their digestive system is CONSTANTLY working, the microbial fermentation taking place inside creates heat that needs to be dissipated.  Add to that muscles that also create heat while working, and pounds and pounds of tack and human body weight added to them, and horses can get very hot very fast. The quickest way for them to cool down is by sweating and having that sweat evaporate. Horses can sweat up to 10-15 liters an hour while working! But in extreme humidity, that sweat doesn’t evaporate as much or as fast, preventing the horse from cooling down properly.
So to prevent overheating, it’s best to avoid exercise during extreme temperatures and humidity if possible. Let the horses rest in shaded areas when possible, and try to plan work or exercise early in the morning and later in the evening when the sun isn’t as hot. According to MadBarn.com, if the temperature plus humidity equals over 150, it’s best not to exercise. Wait until the temperature plus humidity summation gets between 130-150 to prevent overheating.
If possible, turnout your horses at night so they can still graze without the harsh sun and temperatures. Bonus: there are fewer flies at night to bother them  though you may need to take extra precautions against mosquitoes if you live in an area heavy with them.
Look for Signs of Heat Stress
Heat stress is the first sign something is wrong, and if left unchecked it can lead to heat stroke. When the horse’s internal temperature reaches 103 degrees (F), that is considered heat stress (sometimes also called heat exhaustion). Symptoms of heat stress include:
- excess or inadequate sweating
- muscle weakness
- elevated heart rate that doesn’t decrease after rest
- rapid breathing
- skin that is very hot to the touch
- signs of dehydration 
It’s vital to act quickly if your horse has signs of heat stress. If left untreated, heat stress can evolve into heat stroke which can cause permanent organ damage or even death. Gradually reduce the horses internal temperature back to normal range (99-101 degrees Fahrenheit) by getting them indoors or into the shade, encouraging drinking of cool water, and spraying the back and hindquarters with water.
It’s important to note that overweight horses, horses with pituitary gland issues and young foals have a harder time regulating their body heat. They might need extra help and a watchful eye to keep them cool during the summer.
Have Fun and Be Safe in the Summer Heat
Summer is all fun and games, until it’s not! The high temperatures and increased humidity in most parts of the country during this season can be uncomfortable for horses at best, and dangerous at worst. The three easiest ways to make sure your horse is as cool and healthy as possible in the summer is to keep them hydrated, avoid strenuous activity during the height of heat, and be vigilant about noticing heat stress symptoms. As always, please contact your veterinarian if you have concerns. Head to our website to order Mineral 201 or Foundation Daily Detox to give your horses the best possible health, and make sure their electrolytes are replenished.
Content is meant for informational purposes only. Please contact your veterinarian with any health concerns. Written proudly for Animal Element by the team at FaithHanan.com.
- “Electrolytes.” Cleveland Clinic, September 24, 2021. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diagnostics/21790-electrolytes#:~:text=Electrolytes%20are%20substances%20that%20have,outside%20your%20cells%2C%20and%20more.
- Felman, Adam. “Everything You Need to Know About Electrolytes,” MedicalNewsToday, January 6, 2023. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/153188#:~:text=What%20are%20electrolytes%3F&text=Electrolytes%20are%20chemicals%20that%20conduct,electric%20tissues%E2%80%9D%20of%20the%20body.
3-5. Hebner, Kelly. “14 Tips for Feeding & Caring for Horses in Hot Weather.” MadBarn, April 27, 2022. https://madbarn.com/feeding-horses-in-hot-weather/#:~:text=You%20can%20keep%20your%20horse,direct%20sunlight%20for%20long%20periods.