Take Precautions against Equine Heat Stress

Summer means hot, humid weather in many parts of the country. Learn what steps to take to ensure your horses stay cool and comfortable when temperatures rise.

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Take Precautions against Equine Heat Stress
If you suspect heat stress, Walker recommends offering small amounts of water regularly and moving the horse to a shaded, well-ventilated area. If necessary, hose the horse with water, starting at the feet and working upward. | Photo: Photos.com
Summer means hot, humid weather in many parts of the country, including Louisiana. And horse owners in those areas need to take steps to ensure their horses stay cool and comfortable, says Louisiana State University AgCenter equine specialist Neely Walker, MS, PhD.

Just like humans, horses cool off by sweating. So, in hot and humid weather, they must consume more water. Owners should ensure horses have access to copious quantities of fresh, clean water to prevent overheating. Horses that are worked in temperatures above 70°F can easily consume up to 25 gallons of water a day, Walker said.

Another way to prevent heat stress is to ensure that barns, paddocks, and stalls are properly ventilated. Barn doors and windows can be kept open, when safe, to allow airflow, Walker said, and fans can be installed to increase air circulation around horses in stalls.

When feeding, owners should pay attention to protein content. Excessive protein can cause additional metabolic heat during the digestion process, Walker said, which can make it more difficult for a horse to cool down. Crude protein should not exceed 12% to 14% of the total ration for a working adult horse, Walker said. The protein content in the ration for an idle mature horse should be closer to 10%

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