Summer?s Here, and it's Hot!

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Technically, it's still spring (summer begins June 21, which is also the longest day of the year), but weather-wise, we're all in the summer mode. it's upposed to be 97° today. For us, heat means a lot of attention to horse care. I watch the horses for skin fungus, as it's so much better to head that off quickly. My favorite early-detection weapon is the DermaCloth from Kinetic Technologies. it's easy and effective at this stage, but it's not cheap. That said, the right choice of a supplement has helped tremendously in not battling the summer crud. Apparently, it's the intake of trace minerals that helps here. I was using a coat supplement, but I've switched to a great hoof supplement, and it's getting the job done well. Frequent bathing helps, too, as it gets all that sweat and grime off. The hose-attachment shampoo bottles are wonderful for a quick bath, but we always curry, too, so that we know the dirt is lifted from way deep down on the skin. (Not sure which product to choose' Go to www.horse-journal.com and search for ?One-Step Horse Bathing Kits? it's free if you're a subscriber.) If you don't like the spray-on solutions, just choose a gentle shampoo. Yes, I know, you're saying, ?Use dollar-store dish-wash soap.? Well, although we use original Dawn Dish Wash Soap in our barn for about a zillion different things, we don't use any type of dish-wash soap for baths anymore. Sure, it was the staple shampoo, but it's simply not formulated for the horse's hair, and it can be drying to the skin. A gentle horse shampoo doesn't have to be expensive Plus, with all the work involved in giving your horse a bath, it just makes more sense to me to use the right product for proper skin pH and coat conditioning. (Want a neat little tool for bathing' Go to Schneider?s Saddlery and check out the Ultra Rapid Scrub II at http://www.sstack.com/Horse-Care_Grooming_Curries/Ultra-Rapid-Scrub-II/ -- it's just $9.95, and it combines a sponge with a curry, and it fits comfortably in your hand.). With three mares and very tall grass, we have a lot of ?itches? to control. (My husband won?t mow the pasture because He's convinced that two does?one of which is our Molly?have had fawns that are hiding in the grass, and He's worried he might hit one. So the ridiculously overpriced mower gets a summer vacation until He's convinced they've moved on!) But I'm a getting little off track . . . the mares? udders get very gritty with smegma (those grimy, greasy dirt clumps) and sometimes bug bites and irritations, all of which make them scratch their tails terribly. Enter clear, pure aloe gel. We put on a plastic glove and clean the udder area, using a big dab of gel. it's soothing, too. We practice this routine a few times a week. Sunburn can be a problem, too, and we have a long fly mask?the kind that extends down to the nostrils?on the horse with a snip and pink skin. When she finally figures out how to keep getting that off (it takes her a few weeks to get into the swing of things), we'll use zinc oxide. We've got a salt block in the field, but we still add salt to our horse's feed every day, to ensure proper hydration and electrolyte levels. Our horses aren?t worked hard by any stretch?I think this place is actually a horsey spa?but they sweat in the field just due to the heat. The rule of thumb is to add two tablespoons of table salt (plain or iodized, we usually opt for plain) to their feed every day, as that's the minimum amount of salt a horse needs to consume. However, We've found that they won?t eat their feed if it's too salty. Right now?since they're all already looking like Jenny Craig candidates?we're only giving them half a scoop of extruded feed, just so they consume their supplements. With that small an amount of feed, I've had to cut the salt down to a half to 1 tablespoon. During the winter, when I want to encourage them to drink water (of course, you know that salt encourages thirst), I fed 1 to 2 tablespoons, depending upon the horse. We round out our summer care with fly masks for all and fly spray when things get bad with biting flies and they're stomping, or when we're riding. If their faces are masked, their tails are swishing and they don't look uncomfortable, we don't waste the spray. We've yet to find a fly spray that lasts at a level that's protective to our satisfaction the amount of time the bottles claim. And repeatedly spraying your horse with fly spray means you have to give even more baths. Yup. The summer circle of horse care on the farm.