Grand Meadows Cares Series: Some Like It Hot – Horses Do Not

by Nikki Alvin-Smith

Keeping your horse cool and comfortable during hot summer months can be a challenge.

While at some prestige horse events cooling stations are set up with misting fans and shade, the average horse show budget doesn’t stretch to offering sun protection and hydration help to equines on the showground. As the arena and competition warm up areas are likely in full sun, both horse and human can benefit from special care during hot, and especially humid, conditions.

Swift changes from cool or temperate weather to very hot and humid weather are particularly hard on horses because they have not had time to acclimate. And just like us humans, horses that are very young, aged, unfit or obese will have more difficulty handling hot weather than a fitter performance horse that is in his prime.

When competing across country or across Continents as an advanced competitor, I always allow extra days to arrive at location ahead of a competition. This provides time for my horse to settle in a new environment and acclimate to likely very different heat index conditions than my equine partner is used to experiencing, and that goes to a lesser extent to me too.

Know Your Horse

Every horse owner should know how to check that their horse is properly hydrated. Signals that things may be going awry are plentiful if you do your due diligence:

  • Manure should be normal for the particular horse. Learn what the average moisture and consistency of the horse’s manure is and look for any signs of hard or dry manure as a red flag.
  • Excessive sweating or no sweating at all during very hot weather conditions.
  • Know how much water your horse is drinking. A simple chart on a stall door can be a handy record of uptake of water, given an automatic waterer is not used. While 5-10 gallons may be a normal amount on a cooler day, with the increase of heat also comes a requirement for a significant increase in water uptake. It can even triple!
  • Check your horse’s mouth and look for pink and moist gums. If you push on the gum and then release pressure and the pink color returns quickly, within two seconds, then the horse is likely well-hydrated.
  • A pinch test at the horse’s shoulder can measure the skin elasticity which is another indicator of hydration level. A quick pinch and release of the skin should return to flat quickly, but if instead it forms a wrinkle and takes up to 5/6 seconds to disappear then the animal may be dehydrated.

Learning these simple protocols and paying attention to what is normal for your horse when in good health at home will provide a good guideline you can utilize throughout the show day.

Know The Weather

While increasing a horse’s water uptake through provision of clean water offered in clean buckets and refilled regularly; offering an optional source of salt in the stall; the addition of electrolytes to an optional 2nd water source; bringing water from home to the event; flavoring both home and show water with similar ingredient; and wetting down forage and feed can all help getting the horse to drink, in certain weather conditions the workload of the horse may still need to be reduced to protect it from dehydration.

It isn’t just temperature that needs to be watched, it is also humidity. It is wise to be aware of the heat index before you set off in the saddle for a workout or to participate in a class at a show. If you combine the temperature in degrees Fahrenheit plus the humidity percentage you’ll know the heat index number. If that number is over 130 then a moderated workload may be necessary to support the horse’s well-being. If the heat index is over 150, then it might be best not to ride at all. When the heat index climbs above 150, then riding, especially at a demanding level or fast pace becomes a high health risk for the horse.

The humidity factor affects the horse’s ability to sweat, which in turn affects his ability to cool down. If you suspect your horse is vulnerable to dehydration due to an inability to sweat then consider adding a feed supplement that is formulated to support healthy sweating.

The sweat the horse produces will include minerals. A high-quality balanced feed supplement that includes replacements formulated with salt (hopefully no sugar) and other wellness support can help replenish lost reserves. As we know all products are not created equal so check the label for the ingredients list and select a NASC manufacturer. Why? Because a product that showcases the NASC seal indicates the product exhibits integrity of manufacturing processes, accurate counts and amounts of ingredients, labelling accuracy and quality control.

Throw Some Shade

Avoidance of direct sunlight for horse and human can make a significant difference to their comfort levels. Shade, whether it be from a structure or a tree, can aid in both lowering the ambient temperature and in provision of protection from the harm that the hot sun rays can impart through burning sensitive skin.

Barns and stabling areas should incorporate good airflow through passive and/or mechanical ventilation. Fans used should be commercial grade to ensure the motors are sealed to protect them from moisture and dust. Keeping motors free of cobwebs, dust and other detritus is important to help reduce the risk of fire from a motor overheating.

Stress Reduction

Horse showing as we are all aware as horse owners, can be a stressful time, even for the most experienced of competitors. Time and performance pressures, transportation stress, snags /delays, can all combine to add unwanted risk to the well-being of the horse.

Always start off on the right hoof with a healthy animal, with appropriate gastric support that helps build the immune system and encourages a healthy equine gut.

 Is Your Horse Overheated? And If So, What Should You Do?

A good resource to address this question is this article from the University of Minnesota Extension.

In hot summer months it is inevitable that our equine partners will have times of discomfort due to the heat. Always put your horse’s welfare first. Even a qualifying round or competition will come around again on the calendar. It is not worth compromising your horse’s health to participate when heat conditions are significantly adverse.

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 About Grand Meadows: Founded in 1989 by visionary Angela Slater, Grand Meadows is a leading horse health product and equine supplement manufacturer driven by the guiding principle of providing affordable, extremely high-quality science-backed horse products to help ensure horses look and feel their best.

For the past 35 years the company’s mission has been honored and developed further, by President Nick Hartog, who among other accomplishments is one of the founding members and current board member of the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC), an organization that has a profound impact on the safety, transparency, and legitimacy of the animal supplement industry.

Grand Meadow products are widely used and trusted across the entire horse community from Olympic medal winning competitors and successful horse racing trainers to backyard horse owners. Their equine supplements are highly regarded for their excellent quality resourced ingredients and completely accurate labelling and effective formulations. Learn more at

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