Cooling Horses When The Heat Is On

Cooling Horses When The Heat Is On

Tuesdays with Tony

I spent my Saturday morning lounging on a table watching the Piggie Ice Cream Social happen all around me. While supervising all the events, I noted it was hot. Really hot. I was glad my tasks were limited to sitting on the table, inspecting the pools, and looking disdainfully at the pigs. Unlike horses, I’m not expected to partake in athletic endeavors. I pity the ponies this time of year. Never fear though, I have combed through the research and am here to give you solid advice.


I saw it on the internet


There’s a post going around Facebook right now about the fate of horses turned out when wet. Short version: Rated as Not True by this cat. Also rated as not true by some excellent research done before the 1996 Olympics.

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What’s so special about the 1996 Olympics?


The 1996 Olympics were held in Atlanta. Also known as Hotlanta. Also home to heat and humidity of near-Floridia levels. The 1992 Olympics in Barcelona presented hot weather challenges to the horses competing. Most came out of it OK, but it opened eyes to the need to manage high-level equine athletes in hot weather, or risk losing horse events in the Olympic games. Scientists went to work to look at what could realistically be done to improve heat tolerance by horses.




Researchers found horses did best when given 14-16 days to acclimate to heat and humidity. Why does this matter to me, you ask? Sudden heat waves do happen in Florida. If we have been bebopping along in March with less than swamp-on-the-sun conditions, your horse may not be prepared for a sudden April heat wave. In July, we’re all more prepared for that lovely humidity.




Not my favorite word. However, researchers found that decreasing roughage and protein, and increasing fat helped horses handle heat. DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT, do this without talking with one of my Docs. This is only recommended for horses about to partake in some pretty serious work in some pretty hot weather. It also has to be done carefully to make sure there is enough roughage in the diet. Definitely not something to approach all willy nilly.


It really is the humidity


No, really, it is. Sure, when temps are in 110s in the desert Southwest, it’s hot. However, horses rely very, very strongly on sweat evaporating to cool off. That means when it’s 85 degrees, and 92% humidity in Florida, they can’t cool off. Horses are way better off in that 110 degree heat. And by way better off, I mean they can cool off a smidge faster. I don’t mean they can go out and jump around a 4 star cross country course and be fine. Look for ways to increase evaporation on those hot, humid days. Researchers found misting with water for 30-45 seconds, walking for 30-45 seconds, and repeat, worked best to create some airflow over the big veins of the neck and legs which, in turn, improved cooling.


Cold, and I do mean Cold, water


When Dr. Lacher was a kid, there was no arguing that cold water on a hot horse would kill that horse. Everyone knew it. Researchers looked at this, too. The verdict: Myth Busted. Cold water (as in 40℉ cold) worked best to get rectal temperatures down quickly and safely. The horses used for this study ran a real live 3 star level cross country course in Northern Georgia in July. It was for-real hot and humid. Cold water was misted onto their entire bodies, with particular attention paid to the big muscles of the hindquarters, and the neck. The horses were then walked for a very short period, and the misting repeated. This was done with cold and tepid water. The cold water horses dropped their rectal temperatures faster, as expected. They also recovered faster according to blood work parameters! You can easily replicate this at home with those pump-up sprayers for lawn stuff. They even make smaller versions you can take to the ring with you during horse shows. Add ice, and you’ve got cold mist for cooling horses down anywhere.


Heat is tough. I survive it by lounging on the benches in front of the Clinic. When it gets too rough, I go inside to the air conditioning. Most horses don’t have that option. Pay attention to what they are telling you. Cut workouts short, be ready to cool them off fast, and have good fans that move lots of air. Oh, and you can scrape them and turn them out wet. I promise they’ll appreciate the hose off!

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

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Until next week –


Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at, or follow us on Facebook!

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