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Summer Horse Tips

How to Spot Heatstroke

signs of heatstroke
A common misconception is that hot summer weather only affects work or show horses. This is untrue. While active horses are more susceptible to a rise in temperature, extreme heat can quickly take its toll on any horse. In fact, heatstroke can occur whether your horse is plowing a field, standing in a stuffy stall, or traveling in a trailer.

Heatstroke occurs when your horse is unable to rid his body of excess heat. Your horse's body has a natural cooling process. However, extreme heat and humidity can overpower your horse's ability to cool himself. To compensate, the body redistributes blood flow closer to the skin, which aids cooling. However, this mechanism causes internal organs and the brain to receive less oxygen. Add excessive sweating into the mix, which causes a loss of fluids and electrolytes, and the results can be disastrous. Signs of heatstroke - also known as heat stress or heat exhaustion - include:

Elevated Respiratory Rate - between 40 to 50 breaths per minute, shallow breathing, and breathing that remains elevated after two minutes of rest
Elevated Heart Rate - a pulse of more than 80 beats per minute that doesn't slow down after two minutes of rest
Increased or Absence of Sweating - full-body sweating or, worse, if your horse stops sweating entirely
Elevated Temperature - a rectal temperature of 103°F or higher
Lethargy - signs of depression, disinterest in food, stumbling or collapsing

Heatstroke is a serious condition. Severe cases of heatstroke lead to collapse, seizures, or loss of your horse. If you suspect your horse is suffering from heatstroke, immediately take measures to help cool him. Contact your veterinarian if symptoms persist or his condition worsens. To help cool your horse:

Stop Activity - cease workouts, rides, or farm work immediately
Bathe Immediately - douse him with cold water or a water/alcohol mix
Offer Water - allow your horse to drink as much water as he desires
Find Shade - get your horse out of direct sunlight and into the shade
Fan Your Horse - stand your horse beneath a stable fan or in a breezy area

maintain overall health
Your horse's ability to beat the summer heat depends, in part, on his overall health. Sick or injured equines may not have the energy necessary to naturally cool themselves. Similarly, internal parasites can rob your horse of his health and make him even more susceptible to heat exhaustion or stress. Furthermore, your horse can expend large amounts of energy fleeing the swarm of biting insects that usually accompanies summer weather and further expose himself to the elements.


Painted Acres - 275 Route 247 Greenfield Township, Pennsylvania 18407 - (570) 282-5577 - paintedacreslb@echoes.net