In this exceptionally hot weather, it can be difficult knowing when and how to exercise your horse. Obviously, it is important to keep fitness up, especially in summer when your horse is likely to gain a few extra pounds enjoying lusher grazing and conserving its energy, but it is important to know when enough is enough and how to cool your horse effectively after a session.
1) Adapt your routine – first and foremost, changing conditions calls for changing routines, so when it starts hotting up you need to be mindful of when and how you’re exercising your horse. This is best done in the early morning and late evening (if light levels permit it), when the temperature is more bearable. Likewise, choose cooler turnout times when it’s particularly hot, and make sure you provide enough shade in the field.
2) Shade – as well as ensuring shade in the field, think about where you’re exercising your horse and how exposed you are. Consider hacking through shady woodland rather than schooling your horse. This will keep you both cooler for longer, reduce your chance of sunburn, and generally make things more comfortable and enjoyable.
3) Walk it off – after exercise, try to walk for the last 10-15 minutes to bring your horse’s heart rate down and allow him to start cooling off. Afterwards, remove the tack as soon as possible and provide plenty of water for your horse to drink.
4) Water – it goes without saying that during warm weather your horse needs to drink more, especially if he’s being exercised. In summer, horses sweat over 5 litres a day and need to replace this for the healthy functioning of their bodies. Even on an average day your horse can drink as much as 30 litres, so don’t be restrictive – in fact, encourage drinking throughout the day by adding apple juice to enhance the flavour, or allow the water to warm up slightly before offering it (to promote further drinking).
5) Electrolytes - If your horse is regularly sweating then it is important to replace the salts lost in the sweat with an electrolyte supplement.
6) Hose down – do this with cool running water until the water coming off your horse is no longer hot. In the past, it was recommended that you scraped the excess water off immediately afterwards (before it had a chance to absorb body heat and become warm), before hosing down again, but just recently research has come out dispelling this advice - leaving water on your horse may in fact contribute to the cooling process by evaporating. It helps to walk your horse in a cool, shaded area after doing this.
7) Protection – flies are more of a problem in warm weather, so make sure you’ve applied protective fly creams and sprays before exercising your horse outside. Also remember to apply sunblock to prevent your horse burning. Pale and pink areas like the nose are more likely to burn so pay particular attention to them.
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Written by Hannah Dyball