Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Mother Nature is menopausal...we're having a hot flash

From fall-like temperatures to heat-warning highs in less than a week. Ahh, Mother Nature, I have a bone to pick with you. Why did you keep spring away from us this year? We've been sweltering in 100-degree heat indexes since Saturday with very little relief and quite frankly, I'm over it. The humidity is insane and the wind nearly non-existent so all the horses can do is stand around and sweat. And sweat. And sweat. Poor babies.

There isn't a whole lot I can do to make them more comfortable in this heat. When they come in sweaty and hot at night I try to hose them off and re-apply the fly spray. At this point, fly spray is probably the best thing I can do for them. The less they have to worry about, flick and stomp biting bugs the more comfortable they are in the heat. I have mixed feelings about the hosings...sometimes I think they get some relief, other times I get the feeling it makes them feel stickier and hotter, especially in this humidity.

If I had actual stalls I could lock them in during the day instead of just open run-in sheds, I'd keep them in all day and turn fans on them then turn them out during the cooler (and buggier!) night hours.

But, I don't, so I do what I can. I have three pastures that I rotate them through every few weeks. Two pastures have woods, the third does not. I use the third during the early spring and late fall when the heat isn't so bad that they need the trees for shade. It takes some planning to be sure the other two pastures can support grazing during the hottest part of the season without stressing the grass. I probably rotate and mow more often than absolutely necessary, but, I tell you what, my pastures, they are GORGEOUS and chock full of yummy, thick, green grasses.

When it stays hot like this for days on end I like to make sure they have fairly cool water to drink. The water in the tanks tends to become hot and nasty fast under this unforgiving sun. I can't imagine that being very refreshing at all! So, I dump about half the tank and refill it so they can at least have cool drinks in the evening. Salt is essential when they are sweating constantly so salt/mineral blocks are checked daily. When it stays hot, hot, hot I add electrolytes to their evening feed and mix it with a cool mash of beet pulp to encourage consumption. Some horse owners like to add it to water, but I don't. Mine are just picky enough about their water that I don't want to risk them not drinking enough because they don't like the electrolytes. Missing an evening meal because of the electrolytes won't hurt them, not drinking will. None of my horses will suffer from missing a meal, that's for sure!

Obviously, when the heat warning goes on for days I don't ride. I could, but really, why? I'd be hot and miserable and my horse would be hot and miserable. I do hose them or groom them, but no riding for me when the heat indexes hit 100 degrees. I have tried to get up before the sun to beat the heat, but so far, that plan has not yet come to fruition. I'm far too fond of the snooze button for that to happen. But it will, some time...I hope. Soon...maybe. When I was younger these days would be spent on the horses in the creek or river, diving from their backs, just hanging out with friends and all of us staying nice and cool.

What do you do to keep your horses comfortable and healthy when the heat becomes unbearable?


  1. We're in the same boat as you. It was delightfully springlike for about a week and a half - now tortuously hot and no rain for over a month.

    I also have run ins, no stalls. I have a fan and a canopy over the front of the run in which increases the shade and keeps it somewhat cool and dark. Just a tarp strung out to two 4x4's. I doubled the number of grommets and it has held up pretty well.

    Oh, and I do the same as you with the water - one total refilling with a scrub so I can keep the algae at bay, and one half refill to cool the water back down. :)

  2. It seems that you are doing the best you can; having the trees for shade on such hot days probably works quite well. The only other thing would be to have fans, which isn't practical out in the pasture, so maybe you could set up a sprinkler for them?

  3. Calm, Forward, Straight...they do hang out in the run-ins quite a bit, which surprises me because the woods are far cooler and breezier than the run-ins. I wish I could run a fan out there, but knowing Gabe, he'd eat the electrical cord.

    Shirley...I tried a sprinkler and one of those mister hoses last summer...they wouldn't go near either one. Big babies.