Horse cooling recommended by FEI
Horses overall have evolved to cope with the cold far better than they do with the heat. Even while resting, high temperatures can easily result in heat stroke which requires immediate veterinary attention.
Wild horses have the ability to protect themselves from extreme weather by moving to places that offer less extreme conditions. Domesticated horses, however, often do not have the opportunity of finding natural shelter in paddocks and yards. It is of utmost important for all horse owners to ensure their horses are cared for appropriately in the blazing heat of Australian summers.
Horses that have not experienced the practice of aggressive cooling before need to be introduced to it at home prior to competition. Horse owners need to make sure their horse is used to fans, being sprayed with water from hoses and having people working on them from both sides. Aggressive cooling is the most effective way to reduce heat stroke in horses and reduces the risk of collapse and potential injury.
Best horse cooling methods in order of effectiveness
- Applying cold water in large volumes all over the horses’ body. This is the most effective way too cool your horse down
- Concentrating on applying cold water too specific areas of the body such as large blood vessels on the neck or between the legs does not help a horse cool down quicker. Administering cold water, even over large muscles will not cause muscle damage or tying-up
- Use fans or misting fans on your horse
- Move your horse to the shade
Cooling methods that DO NOT work
- Using icepacks to cool your horse by placing them over large blood vessels such as between the hind legs or over the jugular
- Ice or cold water in the rectum is invasive treatment and is not permitted. It is also dangerous as well as ineffective
- Placing wet towels over a horse. This actually slows down heat loss from the horse’s body
Signs of overheating and potential heatstroke
If you see any of the following symptoms and are concerned your horse may have heat stroke you must seek veterinary advice as soon as possible.
- Being lethargic and unsteady, especially when pulling up after exercise
- Blowing deep and moderately fast breathing excessively for a long time after exercise
- Feeling hot to touch
- Nostril flaring
- Extremely prominent blood vessels on the skin
- Reduced urination and/or dark urine
- Decreased appetite and thirst
- Increased rectal temperature
- Dark mucous membranes
- Irregular heart rhythm
- Slow recovery after exercise and/or decreased performance
Suffering from heat is often referred to as heat exhaustion but can rapidly progress to heatstroke if not managed properly. Severe heatstroke or heat exhaustion can lead to colic, laminitis, myopathy, liver failure and can be fatal.
Information credits: horsesandpeople.com.au