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How To Keep Performance Horses Cool During the Summer

Be sure to follow the proper steps to keep your performance horses cool.

Performance horses are still expected to deliver an optimum performance, even as the weather gets hot. By assessing working conditions, water consumption, and feeding practices, you can keep your horse healthy and happy all summer long.


It is best to work a horse during the early morning hours, or in the evening. Avoid working horses during the warmest part of the day. This is best for both horse and rider. If horses must be trained or shown during the middle of the day, they should be offered water regularly to avoid dehydration and heat stroke. However, do not give a hot horse large quantities of water at once. The rule "six sips and walk" provides a good guideline. Loss of fluid can cause colic in horses. And be aware, that if a horse stops sweating, immediate attention is required.


Secondly, adjust feeding during the hot summer months. A horse's total thermal load can be reduced by using highly digestible fiber sources and added fat feed sources. Offer lower fiber hay, or an early cut grass or grass legume mixture. An added fat feed or the addition of corn oil to the diet will provide higher energy with lower intake and will assist in reducing the thermal load. It is best to offer several small meals a day versus two large feedings so that digestion can be spread out throughout the day. Avoid high level of protein, as the excess nitrogen increases fluid loss due to the higher urine output.


Lastly, a performance horse may require 4-6 ounces of salt per day, so loose trace mineral salt should be available free-choice in a feeder to maintain electrolyte balance. Electrolyte supplements may be beneficial immediately before and during a competition, but care must be exercised to make certain the horse is consuming adequate water.