Tuesdays with Tony
What’s up with the title this week, you ask? Eighty degrees is the temperature of the air at midnight this past weekend. I know this, not because I was out prowling about, but because one of my Docs was up seeing a colic. Most horses don’t love this weather. I don’t blame them. Even I spend more time inside and less on the clinic driveway blocking traffic when it’s this hot out. This week let’s talk about summer fun with horses!
The dreaded skin funk
There’s nothing like heat, humidity, and afternoon rain showers to create the just right environment for all kinds of crusts and crud on horse skin. You humans have about a million myths and legends for mystical potions to apply to the skin. Most of these don’t work, and, even better, aren’t great for the skin.
#1 on that list: Listerine. Definitely should not be put on skin. A good hose off daily, along with time in front of the fan drying off, will go far to reduce summertime skin funk. If things have gotten out of hand, or your horse is a delicate thoroughbred who saw a raindrop and is now covered in crusts, reach for an appropriate therapy like Equishield CK Shampoo or spray.
Now look, my Docs aren’t ones to walk around like a TV commercial selling you all manner of things. They use this product because it works! It’s made for horses so a little dab will do you, and also, there’s that it really works thing. For skin funk on the legs, it comes in a salve. Pro Tip: CK Salve is also the greatest thing in the world for removing that cannon bone funk they all get on their hind legs.
Anhidrosis, or Non-Sweaters
There is a magical sweet spot around 78 degrees for the low temperature, and humidity consistently in the high 90% range that makes the equine sweat gland stop functioning. As a cat, I do NOT lower myself to something as mundane as sweating, but I also avoid work, so that helps. Not sweating in summer heat is a really bad plan. These horses are miserable! Luckily, we’ve got Dr. Abbott here, and she does acupuncture. I have no idea how tiny needles put in certain places makes sweat happen, but I am here to tell you I have seen it work with my own cat eyes. It’s pretty impressive.
Since it can take a couple weeks for acupuncture to get these guys going, we also recommend a really good fan, or even better, one of those swamp cooler thingies, and frequent hosing. The less these horses need to sweat, the better they do. On this topic, Dr Patterson-Rosa at our very own hometown University of Florida recently published a paper on the genetics of non-sweaters. Hopefully this helps researchers come up with even better solutions to this problem, and helps breeders avoid making them!
The fancy term is habronemiasis. These things are a giant pain in the behind of all involved. My very best cat advice is to get my Docs involved early! They usually start with some topical treatments, but if that’s not working they quickly go to injecting the summer sore with medications. The best thing you can do to prevent them is fly management. Those pesky flies carry the organism responsible for this around on their feet. Working to reduce your flies with fly predators, feed-through growth regulators like Solitude, and manure management will go a long way to reducing summer sores.
Here is a shining spot of Old Wives Tales in the horse world. When I was just a tiny kitten the absolute RULE was only tepid water on the underside of the neck, and legs. My other favorite is the post that goes around Facebook this time of year: if you turn your horse out after hosing them without scraping the water off they could die of heat build up! They can’t. In fact, the single best thing you can do to cool down a hot horse is to hose their entire body off with LOTS of cold water.
If possible, hit them with VERY cold water. No need to scrape. Just keep hosing until they have cooled off. Put them in front of a fan after hosing to get air moving across that wet, hot body of theirs. If a fan isn’t an option, walk them around to accomplish that same breeze across the body. If in doubt about the level of coolness, hose again. It’s never a wrong answer! You can even hose your horse off before you get on to “pre-cool” them.
Summer is rough. I recommend getting through it in the air conditioning. Heck bring the horses inside. I’m sure they’d like the AC too! If you can’t bring them in, and you need help managing all the fun things summer brings, give my Docs a call. They are full of strategies to manage summer!
Until next week,
P.S. The humans have an entire podcast episode about managing horses in hot weather. If you want to listen to that, head over to the Podcast Page on my website and scroll down through the episodes until you find it. It’s good stuff. But before you go, make sure you subscribe. It’s the purple box right below here. Scroll down a bit more. There you go. Good human.
Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!