Managing Horses in Hot, Dry Weather

Hot, dry weather is on the rise across the country and will continue throughout the summer months. This type of environment poses challenges for horse owners in keeping their horses healthy and comfortable.  Keeping horses hydrated and cool are of paramount importance during hot, dry weather.

Water is needed by the horse for body fluid balance, digestive function and thermoregulation.  Lack of water is more rapidly fatal than lack of feed. Therefore, utmost attention should be paid to water quality and availability particularly when the ambient temperature remains high for long periods of time. Here are tips and suggestions for making sure your horse stays hydrated:

  • Be sure to aggressively treat any horse with diarrhea and do not leave a sick horse out in direct sunlight.
  • Be sure the water available is cool, preferably in the shade or under shelter. Water out in direct sunlight will become hot very quickly and be intolerable to the horse; change the water several times daily if it is heating up. Keep an eye on herd dynamics around a water source to make sure everyone is getting a drink. If the water trough is being dominated by one horse, be sure to make additional water sources available.
  • Feed free choice forage (hay, hay cubes or pelleted forages) to encourage drinking.  Water intake is directly related to how much dry matter is consumed. Eating forage triggers the thirst response because it absorbs water from the intestinal tract.
  • Adding 2-4 tablespoons of loose white salt to the concentrate portion of the diet each day also helps to encourage horses to drink water. A white salt block should also be available to the horse at all times.

All horses should be provided with some type of shade at least during the hottest part of the day.  Pasture shelters work great if they are well ventilated. Stall rest during the day with a fan also provide a great deal of comfort during hot weather.  Misting fans in the aisle can make even the most miserably hot day tolerable for both horse and human!

For providing comfort after a workout, cool baths with alcohol help to cool off a hot horse.

Did You Know?

  • Most water loss by the horse (non-working, not a hot environment) is in the feces…about 4 gallons daily for the 1100 pound horse. Urinary loss – only about 3.25 quarts daily
  • In a hot environment, a horse not acclimated to high temperatures will lose as much as 9 gallons of sweat daily!  That number will reduce to 3-4 gallons daily once the horse has fully acclimated to the hot climate (2-3 weeks).

While hot and dry weather can sometimes feel unbearable, it is possible to provide your horse some cooler comforts in order to keep him healthy, cool, and hydrated during the summer months.

This blog post was originally posted on Wednesday, May 20th, 2012 at Equine Nutrition and Health Services Blog. Blog article was re-posted with permission from blog owner, all rights reserved.