The potential of a supply shortage of hay is a very real possibility in summer, leading to soaring prices and difficulty with sourcing good quality feed. Good preparation is key — it’s a great idea to stock up on good quality feed early while it’s still available and at a reasonable price. Make sure the hay you are buying is of a good quality and consider buying it in round bales to ensure that you have a constant supply of roughage. Keeping it stored in an undercover area will help ensure that it’s not affected by the weather and keep it fresh for longer.
You can also keep a stock of high fibre pelleted alternatives to supplement the diet if the need arises. If possible, feed your horse using a trough or feed bin to reduce the risk of them ingesting sand and dirt which can lead to serious conditions such as colic.
2. Check for signs of heatstroke
As temperatures rise, so do the risks of your horse experiencing heatstroke —a potentially life-threatening condition that develops when a horse is unable to cool himself by sweating. Any horse can be affected, but horses that are overweight or out of condition are at most risk.
Make sure you check your horse regularly, especially after riding, and if your horse is rugged.
Signs of heatstroke to look out for are:
• Profuse sweating or no longer sweating (for extreme heatstroke)
• High respiration rate (above 20 breaths/min)
• Rapid heart rate (above 50 beats/min)
• Dry, hot skin that won’t return when pinched
• High rectal temperature (above 38?C)
• Lethargy or distress.
If any of these symptoms are present, provide your horse with water and shade immediately and seek advice from a vet.
5. Ride only during the cooler times of the day
The hottest part of the day in summer is between midday and 3pm so if possible try to avoid riding or working your horse between these times. When riding, make sure you do so in a shaded area, go for short rides and take frequent water breaks. On very hot days, it’s recommended that you don’t work your horse due to high water loss through sweat and over-heating.
6. Care for your horse post-ride
As horses are prone to heat stress, always make sure you cool them after a ride by hosing them down with cold water, and giving them plenty to drink. Riding in the heat can make horses sweat profusely so in addition to water, you should provide them with a salt block to replace lost electrolytes.
8. Only use suitable summer rugs
Some people choose to rug their horse in summer to protect them from the sun and insects. If you rug your horse it is very important to choose the right type of rug to avoid your horse overheating. It is recommended that you use a white cotton or mesh rug — not one made of heavy canvas or wool — and make sure that you check your horse daily for signs of heat stress.