with Horse and Hound

Working Your Horse in the Heat of Summer

We’re all busy legging up our horses for the upcoming hunting season now. And the summer has been a scorcher. You’ve no doubt become hot and sweaty while exercising your horse, but did you know that horses are much faster than people to become debilitated by the heat? This weather calls for electrolytes..

The Summer Olympics in Atlanta taught us a lot about summer heat and horses. Canadians researchers especially were stimulated to research the problem because their horses were not accustomed to the temperatures they were expecting to encounter.

One surprising response they found was that horses feel the heat up to ten times faster than people. The horse not only gets hotter faster, but is more susceptible to the negative effects of heat stress. Professor Michael Lindinger of the University of Guelph was a lead researcher for the Canadian team.

“It only takes seventeen minutes of moderate intensity exercise in hot, humid weather to raise a horse’s temperature to dangerous levels,” says Lindinger.

The horse sweats to cool his body by evaporation, but the greatest majority of the sweat simply drips off the horse’s body. That sweat is ineffective in the cooling process, yet it carries needed salts from the body. In fact, the salts in horses’ sweat is four times more concentrated than in human sweat.

“Those salts have to be replaced,” says Lindinger. “Just giving the horse water will not re-hydrate a dehydrated horse.”

An electrolyte solution—water with the correct amount of salts dissolved in it—should be made available to the horse to replace those losses.

For more information, read Teresa Pitman’s article in the University of Guelph newsletter.
July 29, 2010