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What Temperature Is Too Hot for Horses (+ Cooling Tips)

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Horses are all over the world in different climates. They’re used to being out in the sun and can spend plenty of time out in the snow. These beautiful animals are incredibly resilient and can put up with large swings in temperatures.

But horses aren’t all that communicative. How can you tell if they are too hot outside during those summer months?

Typically, your horse will have a body temperature of around 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Unfortunately, they’re limited in their body’s capability to cool, so when temperatures get above that level, they can start to experience heat stress. They expel a lot of excess body heat through their breath, but even that’s got limits. If it gets too hot out, you may need to take action to keep your horse cool.

Close monitoring of your horse will help you spot when they’re feeling the heat. By keeping a close eye on them, you can anticipate when they need to cool down before their body heat gets out of hand.

Let’s explore how high temperatures affect horses and go over some tips you can use to make sure they’re cool when it’s blazing hot outside.

a herd of american quarter horses galloping

How Horses Deal with Hot Temperatures

When it gets super hot outside, it stresses horses because they don’t sweat off excess heat as well as humans and other animals. Some horses even have a condition called anhidrosis, which prevents them from sweating.

Others, however, do manage to sweat off body heat, but when things are intense outside, there’s only so much they can do.

Horses will seek out shade and drink more water, but depending on their personalities and how much they’re working, the heat can become too much.

When Is It Too Hot to Ride a Horse?

How can you tell if your horse is too hot? If your local temperatures reach the triple digits, you need to watch your horses closely.

Here are 8 signs your horse is too hot:

  • heavy panting (trying to expel heat through their breath)
  • Lack of visible sweat
  • High internal body temperatures
  • Stumbling
  • Lack of energy
  • Seizures
  • Obvious signs of discomfort
  • Flattening of their coat

In severe cases, horses that get too hot die. The more attention you pay to your horse when it’s hot outside, the better you’ll be able to help them when they need it.

Acting quickly when horses overheat is key to controlling their temperatures and preventing any serious health effects. Thankfully, it’s not complex to bring their temperatures down by getting rid of excess heat.

a beautiful paint horse

How to Keep Your Horse Cool When Things Heat Up

Ensure Access to Water

It’s tough to force your horse to drink more water even when you feel that they should. The best you can do is ensure that they always have access to cool, freshwater when temperatures are high.

Make sure their water is clean and something they’ll want to drink when they get thirsty.

Just because a horse doesn’t drink water doesn’t mean they’ve hydrated adequately. What you should do is measure their normal water consumption and then compare it to how much they’re drinking when it’s hot. If they’re not drinking more, then it could be cause for concern and you will need to try something to cool them off.

Sometimes it can be hard to know when they’re drinking enough water. One thing you can do is touch or look at its nose. It should be nice and moist. If it’s not, it’s a good indication that they need to be drinking more water.

Give Them a Cool Bath

Horses will love you if you use the hose to spray them down when it’s super hot outside. Just remember, though, that putting cool water on a hot horse can make them shiver and could make them sick if it’s left on for too long.

The contrast in the temperatures happens too quickly, so you will need to dry them off by scraping the water off instead of letting it sit on them when the bath is done. It can also trap more heat in trying to get out.

man bathing horse in the stable

Use a Fan

Bring your horse somewhere in the shade where you can position a fan on them to blow air at them to cool them down. This is a great way to get your horse’s body temp down.

You can buy a large industrial fan online or in a hardware store that will work very well outside.

Cut Down on the Exercise

Managing your horse’s workload will help them stay cool. Don’t work them out in the heat of the day, and cut down how much you are riding them if possible. Keep rides to the cooler times of day in the morning or the evening.

If you can, hose them down both before and after they exercise to prevent spikes in their temperature.

All of the equipment that goes on a horse adds to the heat, and running around or carrying you makes it harder to get rid of excess heat when things are hot.

Add Salt & Electrolytes to the Water

Sometimes dehydrated horses won’t drink water. Who knows why they’re refusing it, but maybe they are so hot they’ve lost interest in drinking. Maybe they’re too weak. You may have to get up close and personal with a bucket of water to try and get them to drink.

Another thing you can do is add some salt and electrolytes into the water to make it taste a bit different. Adding them in also helps their bodies retain more of the water they drink.

Most of the time, this does the trick and gets the horse to start drinking again.

Horse licking a salt

Try Some Juice!

If they won’t drink the water with the salt in it, then you may have to kick things up a notch to entice them to drink. A bucket of watered-down apple juice usually works just fine and they’ll gulp it down happily.

It’s not necessarily something you will want to do often, so maybe just keep it for when you’re particularly concerned about whether they are drinking enough water.

Force Your Horse into the Shade

You would think that every horse would want to get out of the sun and into the shade when temperatures are very hot outside. It makes sense, but sometimes horses stay out for hours in direct sunlight, and they end up getting heat exhaustion.

If you’re worried about your horse being out in the sun for too long, then you can force them into the shade.

Tie them off on a fence post in a shaded part of the property to let the cooler temperature slowly bring their body temp back down. Keep them there until they start showing signs of increased energy and their nose looks nice and moist.

 pair of horses out to pasture graze on the grass

Call a Vet

Of course, if you’re ever worried about your horse, you can always call a vet. Certainly, if your horse starts showing serious symptoms of heat stress like stumbling when they walk or any type of seizure, you should call for help immediately.

The vet will treat the horse and talk to you about what you should be doing to keep them cooler.

Final Thoughts

Owning a horse takes a lot of work, and if you live somewhere it gets very hot, there’s also heat stress to worry about.

Pay close attention to how your horse is behaving, what they are drinking, and look for signs that they are getting too hot.

Taking early action is probably the best thing you can do to keep your horse happy and healthy.

Hosing them down, putting them in the shade, and doing what you can to get them to drink more water will go a long way in preventing anything serious from happening.