Horse Health Tips For Students includes information for our students about common horse health care issues. These posts are to bring awareness to horse welfare issues - always ask your veterinarian for advice and treatment protocols for your own horse!
Overheating horses can be a problem particularly in the summer on hot, humid, buggy days. However, horses can overheat all year round, even in our cold climates. It's important for students to recognize the signs and know what to do to help prevent overheating.
Signs of Overheating
- excessive sweating
- skin hot to touch and above normal body temperature
- signs of dehydration (i.e., poor skin elasticity, sunken eyes)
- lethargic, muscle weakness, stumbling, lack of coordination
- above normal breathing and pulse rates that don't recover after exercise
Heat stroke can occur if overheating goes untreated, which has more serve symptoms:
- skin hot and dry
- rapid breathing
- body temperature above 41 degrees Celsius
If untreated, horses experiencing heat stroke may collapse, go into convulsions and die.
When can Overheating Occur?
Overheating in horses might occur on hot days, humid days, or in other situations where they can't cool their body normally, such as during long periods of intense exercise/work, being blanked too warmly for the weather, or exercising with a thick hair coat. Some of these situations can happen in the winter as well as the summer.
What to do if you think your horse is showing signs of overheating?
It's important to always monitor your horses vitals and behavior. If you think your horse is sweating more than usual, is showing signs of dehydration (do a skin pinch test and see if the horses skin pops back into place quickly), and seems lethargic, it's best to stop your riding or activities and contact your coach, the horse owner and veterinarian. Try to cool the horse off by offering shade, a fan and small amounts of room temperature water. Wetting the horses body with room temperature water is also beneficial. Start with wetting the legs and work your way up to the body. Stopping overheating before the horse suffers from heat stroke is crucial.
Preventing Overheating is the Key:
Some horses may be more susceptible to overheating than others and need to be monitored more closely:
This article was written by Dr. Gwen Donohoe, PhD