When the temperature gets into the triple digits, or excessively hot for your particular area, it is important to pay close attention to your horse and look for signs of heat stress. Horses have an incredible ability to adapt too many situations including hot temperatures. However, horses that are asked to perform in elevated temperatures are put at risk of experiencing heat stress.
We had a horse suffer a slight founder a few years ago. The determined cause of the rotation was stress from excessive heat. It was in the summer with a stretch of days with highs in the triple digits. We did catch it early and the horse led a somewhat normal life, but that is not always the case with Heat Stress. It can be deadly.
Signs of Heat Stress
The most common signs of heat stress are labored breathing, elevated temperatures, increased heart rate, and an increase in respiratory rate. You may also notice your horse having an overall distressed look. If all other horses are sweating and yours should be but is not, this may be a sign of heat stress.
What are Normal Vital Signs?
For the average horse the normal ranges for a horse at rest are a heart rate of 24 – 48 beats per minute, a respiratory rate of 10 to 18 breaths per minute and a temperature of 99.9 to 101.5 F. These ranges can and will vary with age and breed of your horse. Check with your local vet for your horses normal vital signs.
What to do if you suspect Heat Stress in your horse
If you are exercising your horse stop and call the vet immediately. While you are waiting for the vet find a cool place to move your horse. Cool your horse down with a bath. Create a breeze with a fan if available, and offer cool drinks of water frequently. Keep running cool water on the horse’s legs and body until the vet arrives.
How can I avoid heat stress in my horse?
Hydration is critical to the overall health of horses. We should always be sure they have access to good, clean water at all times. Planning your riding or exercising sessions in the mornings or evenings is important. If you are riding for longer periods of time, be sure to give your horse a rest and offer them frequent drinks of water. Always cool your horse down properly and end with a cool bath if possible. When not exercising or being ridden, be sure your horse has access to adequate shade, fresh water, and the stable, paddock, and your trailer has plenty of ventilation.
For more information on Heat Stress be sure to consult with your local Veterinarian.