Summer is here, folks. Temperatures are topping 90-plus degrees during the day and thunderstorms are soaking our pastures nearly every afternoon. If my butt isn’t in the saddle before 9 a.m., I know my regular work outs will be cut short because it’s just too miserable out there right now.
As the owner of a black hanoverian mare who doesn’t sweat, has skin allergies and lives in the year-round swamp called Florida, I thought I’d share some tips I’ve picked up on how to keep your horse cool, dry and comfortable in the summer months.
Quickest way to cool down a horse
We all know how to rinse down a horse with a hose after a work out. But do you know which parts of the body to hit first? Look for the veins that protrude from your horse’s coat during and after a work out. Usually you’ll see most of them in your horse’s neck, chest, haunches and back legs. Let those veins be your guide.
The quickest way to cool out my non-sweating mare is to douse her chest and neck, underneath and in between her hind legs and under her tail first. In between focusing on these key points on her body, I rinse her entirely, too, of course.
How to check for dehydration
These are some of the oldest tricks in the book. The first one is the skin test. Gently pinch the skin on your horse’s neck or shoulder and let go. If the skin is slow to sink back into place — rather than snaps back — your horse is likely on his or her way to becoming dehydrated.
Another quick way to check for dehydration is to inspect your horse’s gums. If their gums are already pale in color, you know something isn’t right. If you press a finger into their gums and the skin is slow to turn pink again, your horse is likely dehydrated.
Every horse has different drinking habits. But if your horse is prone to becoming dehydrated in the summer, find ways to help encourage your horse to drink. Maybe add electrolytes to their diet. A salt block in their stall could help, too. Maybe wet down your horse’s grain during feedings.
At horse shows, I add Gatorade to my horse’s water bucket for a special treat, but also to encourage her to drink. I’ve also done this with watermelon chunks.
What if your horse stops sweating?
Anhidrosis affects horses in different ways and for different reasons. But there are variety of ways to treat it. The most immediate way to treat a horse that is prone to overheating or doesn’t sweat is to add beer to their diet. Add a good dark beer (like Guinness) to their grain every feeding for a few days and see if it encourages your horse to sweat. I’ve also known horse people to use Vodka.
There are a variety of daily supplements, like One AC, that helps with this too.
Some non-sweaters have found success in regular acupuncture treatments with a specialist.
Rain rot and other fungus remedies
Summer means rain and rain means fungus and other skin problems. There are a couple of great products out there that help treat fungus and skin issues that make horses itchy. EQyss MircoTek spray is probably my favorite. But there are also a lot of DIY homemade remedies that can be helpful, too. I use a homemade Listerine-based spray to help fight fungus. Bathing your horse with white vinegar is an old cowboy trick and a great way to alleviate ouchies and itchies from hives or other skin issues. I use Desitin diaper rash cream in my mare’s tail and under her belly when she’s really itchy.