When the temperatures rise, and the Earth gets a little further from the sun, horse owners adapt their care routines and summer riding gear to stay cool and comfortable.
The summer months can be nothing short of scorching. Because of this, it's crucial to highlight the basics of summer horse care for anyone in charge of an equine or two.
With proper attention and a few changes to your daily care plan, horses can thrive in the heat. This article will explore essential tips for managing your horse when the weather warms up, including practical methods to keep them comfortable and bug-free.
From DIY fly spray to heat-friendly gear, we're here to keep you and your four-legged partner cool as a cucumber through the summer solstice and beyond!
Fundamental Summer Horse Care
While it's common for care plans to differ from horse to horse, there are a few things that every equine needs when it heats up outside.
Adequate Shelter and Ventilation
During the summer, it's important to ensure that horses have access to shade and well-ventilated areas. If your horse lives inside most of the time or stays on a 12-hour in, 12-hour out schedule, stalls should be equipped with fans and proper airflow to prevent overheating.
For horses that spend their days (or nights) grazing and hanging out with the herd, you'll want to ensure they have ample natural or manufactured shade structures. From a run-in shed to an old oak tree, pastures, and paddocks need something to provide relief from the sun or the occasional pop-up rainstorm, especially if they're on 24/7 turnout.
Remember to keep run-in sheds clean and manure-free, as it attracts many unwanted pests. Paddock Blade will keep your pastures pristine with minimal effort on your end. Tidy turnout areas = happy, healthy horses!
Ample Fresh Water Supply
Staying hydrated is essential for horses year-round, but especially during hot weather. Your herd requires clean, fresh water at all times. It never hurts to monitor water intake to ensure they are drinking enough.
Adding electrolytes to the diet can aid in maintaining proper hydration levels by encouraging them to drink more. If you have large water troughs and a humid environment, algae can grow, quite literally, overnight. Products like this can keep your water sources clean, resulting in less scrubbing and water waste!
Adjusted Feeding Regimen
It's not uncommon for horses to experience a decreased appetite in the heat. Talk with your veterinarian to determine if smaller meals fed more frequently throughout the day suit your horse, if you plan to keep feeding grain.
Occasionally, horses may go off their grain in the summer as owners focus on providing high-quality forage. Keeping lush grass and clean hay regularly available aids in digestion and helps regulate body temperature.
Working with a reputable equine nutritionist is another excellent way to ensure your horse gets what it needs during the warmer months.
Fly and Insect Control
People (usually) love summer, and so do bugs. An abundance of flies and insects come along with the heat, which is incredibly irritating and potentially harmful to horses.
All horse owners should implement fly control measures such as fly masks, fly sheets, and fly repellents to keep bugs at bay. Fly traps and barn sprays can also significantly reduce insect populations.
If chemicals aren’t your thing, dozens of homemade, all-natural insect spray recipes are available online! Trial and error work best here, but one of our simple favorites includes the following ingredients:
- 1 24-32 ounce spray bottle (you can use an old, empty fly spray bottle)
- 2 cups of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup of water, tap is fine
- A tablespoon of blue Dawn dish soap
- 20 drops of lemon essential oil
- 20 drops of peppermint essential oil
Add all of your ingredients to the empty bottle, shake, spray onto a body brush and apply!
Bathing and Grooming
Regular grooming is essential to keep horses clean and comfortable during the summer. Bathe them occasionally with a gentle horse-friendly shampoo (some brands even help ward off insects) and use a shedding blade or grooming mitt to remove loose hair.
Grooming not only helps maintain coat health but also aids in fly control. After all, insect sprays and repellents work best on a clean coat!
You should avoid becoming too frustrated with your horse if he rolls in the dirt or mud immediately after a grooming and pest control session. He's not trying to annoy you on purpose, we promise. Rolling is a natural way for them to keep flies at bay, and it helps with itchiness.
Various cooling techniques can help horses beat the heat when the weather outside feels close to unbearable. They'll all appreciate a hose-down with cool water or wet towels on their neck, chest, and legs.
Installing misting systems in the barn area can also provide relief when stalled. CoolAid offers an amazing product line that will keep any sweaty equine feeling fresh and comfortable.
Best Summer Riding Gear for Horses
Photo Credit: CoolAid, available at Weaver Leather
Now that we've touched on primary care in the heat let's chat a bit about how you can keep your horse comfortable during a summer ride.
Lightweight and Breathable Horse Sheets
Opt for horse sheets made from moisture-wicking and breathable materials to protect from insects and sun without causing overheating. The CoolAid Synergy Cooling Blanket (pictured and linked above) is wonderful for an after-ride cooling session or for relief when the afternoon sun is too much.
Before you ask, there are fly sheets explicitly designed to ride in. You can officially enjoy that summer hack without the horse flies carrying you away.
Invest in high-quality fly masks with UV protection to shield your horse's eyes and face from flies and harmful sun rays. Most fly masks fit easily under halters and over bridles.
Always double-check to ensure that you've purchased the right size! We love a good lycra fly mask, but there are dozens of choices that cater to all horses.
Cooling Horse Boots
Consider using cooling boots for your horse's legs after exercise to reduce inflammation and provide comfort. Ice and cooling boots are helpful year-round, especially for performance horses. They also do an incredible job of lowering body temperature after exercise or a summertime romp in the paddock!
Sweat-Wicking Saddle Pads
Choose saddle pads that absorb sweat and promote airflow to keep the horse's back cool and comfortable during rides. The Lettia CoolMax Saddle Pad Liner is an ideal addition to any summer ride, and they make a half-pad as well!
Best Summer Riding Gear for Humans
Most of the horse owners we know are more concerned about their horse's well-being than themselves, and we get it. Still, riding well takes quite a bit of effort on behalf of the rider, and because of that, you absolutely need equipment that will keep you cool and collected.
Lightweight and Ventilated Riding Helmet
Select a riding helmet with proper ventilation to keep your head cool and comfortable. There are plenty of choices with a wide price range, but if you don't feel like spending your hard-earned cash on a new helmet, consider a head-cooling product like the HyperKewl.
Moisture-Wicking Riding Apparel
Sweating during a ride is unavoidable, even when it's cold outside. Summer outings, whether in the arena or on the trail, require moisture-wicking apparel. From shirts and breeches to boot socks and gloves, there are many ways to stay dry, comfortable, and protected from bugs during rides.
Brands like Kerrits and TuffRider have stay-dry lines for both adults and kids. If you're looking for something fashion-forward and functional, Pomme Equestrian Riding Leggings are everything.
Remember sunscreen, sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed helmet visor to shield yourself from the sun's rays.
Note: Your horse appreciates protection from those UV rays too! Masks and sheets can help, but a shampoo with UV protection combined with a hypoallergenic mineral sunscreen is perfect!
Stay in the Saddle Despite the Sun
Keeping horses cool, comfortable, and bug-free during the summer is essential for their well-being. It allows horse and rider to enjoy their time together despite the relentless heat.
When you provide adequate shelter, fresh water, proper grooming, and effective fly control measures, you can ensure your equine companions have a pleasant summer, regardless of the weather.
The right gear will improve the riding experience while protecting everyone from the elements and annoying winged critters. Clean pastures are a summer must-have for pest control, so contact Paddock Blade today, and we'll show you how our product adds to the peace and comfort of your herd!