Hot Weather Horse Care

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We've already had our first bout of miserably hot weather and it's not even mid-summer yet.? We skipped riding during this first wave, as the horses weren?t ready for it. As the summer progresses, they?ll become more used to working in heat, just as we do. When we were actively showing, we would purposely build the horses up to working in heat, so they were ready to compete in classes under the afternoon sun.

But our horses aren?t worked hard by any stretch anymore?I think this place is actually a horsey spa?they do sweat when we ride and sometimes even in the field (add a little liniment in the water and you can sponge the sweat right off), but I don't need to feed them electrolytes.

I learned in past Horse Journal articles that unless you work your horse hard every day, the horse should be able to meet electrolyte needs with salt. So, We've got a salt block in the field, and we add plain table salt to the feed every day, to ensure proper hydration and electrolyte levels.

Of course, we do a lot of bathing this time of year to head off skin problems. The hose-attachment shampoos are wonderful for a quick bath. (Not sure which product to use' Go to www.horse-journal.com and search for ?One-Step Horse Bathing Kits.?)

If you don't like the spray-on products, get a gentle horse shampoo, like Orvus, Corona or Lucky Braids. No, don't use dollar-store dish-wash soap. Although we love original Dawn Dish Wash Soap for about a zillion tasks in our barns, dish soap is too drying to the horse's skin. With all the work involved in giving your horse a bath, why not use the right product for proper skin pH and coat conditioning'

Our three mare are prone to itchy udders over the summer. They get gritty with grimy, greasy dirt clumps and sometimes bug bites and irritations, all of which make them scratch their tails terribly. As Dr. Grant Miller suggests in his cover story this month, we go through a lot of clear, pure aloe gel in the summer. The aloe cleans the udder very well and it's soothing, too.

Sunburn is a problem for the mare with a snip. A long fly mask shields that spot from the sun, but she hates wearing it. Eventually she'll learn to remove it (it normally takes her a few weeks to figure it out). When that happens, we'll use zinc oxide on that white hair/pink skin. it's inexpensive and works great.

This year We've added fly parasites to our arsenal. they're awesome. The reduction in flies around the farm is noticeable, even by neighbors.

Summer care also includes daily removal of manure from high-traffic areas (for fly control and to prevent mud bogs) and fly masks. We save fly spray for when we're riding, farrier work and if they look uncomfortable with swishing tails, head bobbing, and stomping hooves (very destructive!).

Yup. There sure is a lot to summer horse care. And I love every minute of it.

Cynthia Foley, Editor-in-Chief