Summer Prep for your Horse
Tuesdays with Tony
You all know how much I love laying around outside basking in the sun, but the last few weeks have been a muggy mess! This past weekend gave us some relief, but that was just a tease. Winter’s gone and summer has arrived, along with all those fun Florida summer things that horses and horse owners get to deal with. Fortunately for you, I’m an expert on summer and the problems it can cause for your horse, and I’m here to help you prepare for a happy, safe summer ahead.
Heat and Humidity
You don’t have to live in Florida to be affected by the heat and humidity of summer. Horses throughout the entire world are affected every year by anhidrosis, which is the inability to sweat. The cause of anhydrosis is unknown, but humidity does seem to play a role. If you know that your horse is a non-sweater, I highly recommend getting a jump start on helping them deal with it before the heat of summer.
There is excellent data on acupuncture treatment for non-sweaters. I’ve seen it myself; a horse comes with difficulty sweating, they have a few acupuncture treatments, and while they may not be in a full-blown dripping sweat, they are indeed sweating. I’ve also noticed that non-sweaters who are treated with acupuncture really seem to handle the heat much better. It is complete voodoo magic in my opinion, but it’s voodoo magic that works.
You may not know if your horse is a non-sweater yet, and that’s okay! At the first sign that your horse is shutting down and not sweating, call your veterinarian. They can talk to you about treatments, products, and lifestyle changes that may make your horse’s life as a non-sweater easier.
Horses that don’t sweat aren’t the only ones that struggle with the heat, and it can be exhausting. That’s why it’s so important to be aware of the appropriate times to work your horse. Early in the morning and late in the evening tend to be the coolest. It can also be beneficial to hose your horse down prior to exercising. An extended warm up and cool down will ensure your horse recovers well after exercise, thus preventing problems associated with heat stress.
An overheated horse is prone to colic from dehydration. They can also collapse from overheating. Believe it or not, horses can overheat even if they are not doing any type of exercise. That means a horse could be standing out in his favorite pasture and get overheated. Ensuring there is fresh cool water available, ample shade, and if possible, fans, can be extremely useful in preventing a horse from overheating. I’ve even heard stories about horse owners setting up sprinkler systems for their horses to stand in during the day, and those silly horses do, and LOVE it. Whatever floats your boat, I suppose.
I know how much you all just love the bugs. Flies and mosquitos are just great, aren’t they? How about gnats? And oh, my goodness, it’s literally been raining caterpillars recently. Flies and mosquitos are a year-round thing down here in Florida and are enough to drive any horse and horse owner bananas.
If you’ve ever had a horse that’s had a summer sore, you know what I mean when I say they are a pain in the rear end. Preventing summer sores is key. I highly recommend your horse wear a fly mask, if not 24/7, at least during the day when the flies are most busy. Feed-through fly supplements such as Solitude IGR or Simplifly reduce the number of flies present on a farm. The trouble with these supplements is they have to be fed to every horse on the property and if there are horses nearby on surrounding properties, they should also be on it. It has to be a collective effort from the horse owners in the area.
Fly predators are one type of bug that I really like. These little bugs are so useful in reducing the fly population. Most struggles with fly control stem from damp organic material being left unattended. Damp organic material such as wet shavings, poop bits, and old hay and grain that is swept out of the barn but left at the end of the aisle is the fly’s favorite breeding grounds. Simply raking up debris will help reduce the fly population. For more tips and tricks about fly control, give me a call, I have all kinds of suggestions up my sleeve.
Three hundred sixty-five days a year, mosquitos are present. Unlike flies, there’s not a lot that can be done to reduce the number of mosquitos. However, getting rid of stagnant water is definitely useful. More importantly is making sure your horse is protected against mosquito-borne illnesses such as eastern and western encephalitis and west nile virus. These illnesses are life-threatening. Having your horse properly vaccinated is extremely important for prevention. This means having your veterinarian vaccinate your horse with properly stored vaccines at least twice a year. Did you know that if a box of vaccines is left out on the loading dock at your feed store, they might not be effective? And there’s no way to tell. Vaccines have to be kept at a very specific temperature, which your veterinarian knows, but the guy at the feed store might not. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Now, who do I talk to about these darn caterpillars? I swear I can’t get any rest without one of those things falling on me. Most of the time I wouldn’t care about the caterpillars, but recently the ones I have been encountering have been extra spicy. Have you noticed the ones with all the hairs poking up? Those are the spiciest of all.
Caterpillars usually aren’t much of a nuisance to horses, but these hairy ones certainly can be. I’ve seen horses stick their nose in their feed buckets take a bite of feed and then run away and refuse to go back to it. I always like to inspect things, so be sure to check your horse’s feed and water buckets for these pesky critters. And use caution when removing them to avoid getting stung yourself!
The rain is coming. We might need a little bit of rain right now but halfway into summer, I can already hear the complaints about the rain. With rain comes a myriad of feet problems. From abscess to mushy foot to thrush. Wetness can cause your horse to come up lame at just the wrong time. Planning to go to a show? Trust me, your horse is probably going to get an abscess or develop mushy foot and be foot sore. I’ve seen it a million times.
Prevention is key. Have your farrier out on a regular schedule, usually every 4-6 weeks. Apply topical hoof care as directed by your veterinarian and farrier. And do not allow your horse to stand in mud, muck, and water all day long. This will damage your horse’s feet, and while I love seeing you all, I really do, I hate hearing that your horse’s feet hurt.
With rain and wetness comes the dreaded rain rot. No, rain rot isn’t a fungus, it’s a bacteria that infects your horse’s hair follicles and causes that nasty, greasy, gunk on their back and legs. Making sure your horse has ample time to dry after a wet spell, reducing hair length, and frequent bathing with CK shampoo will help reduce the occurrence and severity of rain rot. My docs know all the best products to combat rain-rot. Just call them, they won’t steer you wrong.
It’s not all bad
Summer isn’t all bad! The days are longer, which means you get more time with your horses, and who doesn’t love that? If you want to have a long, enjoyable summer of time in the saddle with your horse, prevention is key. Regular veterinary exams and being prepared before summer hits are essential to both your happiness as well as your horse’s happiness and comfort.
Until next week,
P.S. Want more? Check out my YouTube Channel! I’ve got seminars on rain rot, foot care, flies, and a lot of other topics. I’ve got how-to videos on all kinds of things. I mean, who takes care of you better than this cat? You can show me some love by subscribing to my blog, or my YouTube Channel, or my Facebook page, or to the Podcast that the humans do. I even have an Instagram and a Tik-Tok, if you can believe that. Just click on any of those blue words to go check it out.
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!