Summertime, and the livin’ is easy (if you’re a cat)! I do love summer. I lounge around in the A/C, sleep on the porch bench in the shade, work on my tan in the parking lot. It’s a good time. Of course, life is always good when you are a cat. Now if you are a horse it’s a whole different story. I hear horses have to do this thing called sweating. It sounds dreadful. Not only do they get hot and stinky, it happens because they are working for you humans.
Sweating is one of the reasons horses are amazing athletes. Let me be clear here, cats are better, but horses are still pretty good. Sweating comes at a price though. Sweating causes a profound loss of electrolytes and water. Horses have to have a way to replace those losses or trouble comes fast. Horse sweat is different than human sweat in a few ways. First, it has a different electrolyte make up. Horse sweat is made up of potassium, sodium, and chloride, in that order. Human sweat is sodium, potassium, chloride. Small amounts of calcium and magnesium are also present in sweat. This means electrolyte supplements for horses need higher potassium concentrations than those for humans. It also means that while Gatorade tastes delicious, it is not an appropriate electrolyte replacement for horses.
Next, have you ever wondered why your horse lathers when he sweats, but you don’t? That is because horses have a protein called latherin in their sweat. I sometimes marvel at human scientists. You named it latherin. Seriously, couldn’t come up with something more original than latherin? Turns out latherin has a very important job. This protein helps the sweat move from the skin, though the hair, and out to the surface where it can evaporate as quickly as possible. Since humans aren’t lucky enough to have fur, they don’t need latherin.
Because horses have to be weird, some of them decide to stop sweating. This is known as anhidrosis. Anhidrosis happens when heat and humidity hits a certain level. Here in Florida we experience lots of heat and lots of humidity. So if it’s July, you are out riding, and your horse isn’t sweating, get them back to the barn and hose them down quickly. The brilliant human scientists aren’t sure why this happens but there are several products out there that help some horses. I would recommend talking with our Docs about treatment options. Management is really important with these guys. They adopt a cat-like attitude about life. They want to be in front of fans at all times and only work in the coolest parts of the day. Unlike yours truly, frequent hose downs will help them stay cool.
While I have no desire to experience this sweating thing myself, it is pretty amazing from a purely cat-curiosity standpoint. And as a cat, I know quite a bit about curiosity. To help your horse deal with all that sweat, be sure they are drinking and replacing electrolytes. Know what is normal for your horse and be ready to stop exercising if something seems off. And most important, if in doubt, take a nap on the porch.