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Heat Stress

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    Posted: 17 Jun 2015 at 11:16am
Never use a blanket or "cooler" on a horse that is sweating. The best way to cool a horse quickly is to rinse the horses body repeatedly with cold water and scrape off the excess water.

Never use a blanket or “cooler” on a horse that is sweating. The best way to cool a horse quickly is to rinse the horse’s body repeatedly with cold water and scrape off the excess water.
>> How to keep your horse cool

A hot humid day. One rider. One horse. Both are exercising at a moderate level. Who is more likely to overheat? 

It might surprise you to know that your horse gets hotter much faster than you and is more susceptible to the negative effects of heat stress.

Professor Michael Lindinger, an animal and exercise physiologist at the University of Guelph, explains: “It only takes 17 minutes of moderate intensity exercise in hot, humid weather to raise a horse’s temperature to dangerous levels. That’s three to 10 times faster than in humans. Horses feel the heat much worse than we do.”

And the effects can be serious. If a horse’s body temperature shoots up from the normal 37 to 38 C to 41 C, temperatures within working muscles may be as high as 43 C, a temperature at which proteins in muscle begin to denature (cook). Horses suffering excessive heat stress may experience hypotension, colic and renal failure.

Lindinger, a faculty member in the Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences, became interested in the effects of heat on horses when he was a lead researcher on the Canadian research team that contributed information on the response of the horse to heat and humidity for the Atlanta Summer Olympics. He recently presented a workshop on the topic at Equine Guelph’s outdoor Equine Expo on June 4 at U of G’s Arkell Research Station.

Horses are more susceptible to heat for several reasons, explains Lindinger. First, they are larger and have a higher percentage of active muscle than people do during exercise. When muscles are being used, they produce a lot of heat.

Horses also rely to a significant extent on sweating to cool them off. They can sweat 15 to 20 litres per hour in cool, dry conditions and up to 30 litres per hour in hot, humid conditions, but only 25 to 30 per cent of the sweat produced is effective in cooling the horse by evaporation.

“Because so much more sweat is produced than can be evaporated, the rest just drips off the horse’s body,” says Lindinger. “By comparison, up to 50 per cent of the sweat people produce is evaporated from our bodies during exercise and helps to cool us.”

The salts in horse sweat are also four times as concentrated as in human sweat. Lindinger refers to a photograph of an area where endurance horses had been standing while their sweaty bodies were repeatedly scraped and cooled with water. As the liquids evaporated from the ground, the soil surface was left white because of the salt in the horses’ sweat.

“Those salts have to be replaced,” he says. “Just giving the horse water will not rehydrate a dehydrated horse. When horses drink plain water, it dilutes their body fluids, and their bodies respond by trying to get rid of more water and more electrolytes.”

Horses also pant to dissipate heat, but Lindinger says this is effective only if the air is at least five degrees cooler than the horse’s body temperature.

His tips for protecting horses from the harmful effects of summer heat begin with teaching your horse to drink an electrolyte solution (water with the right proportion of salts dissolved in it) to replace sweat losses. “Start with a small amount in the water, allowing the horse to get used to the taste, and gradually increase it over days and weeks until you have reached the manufacturer’s recommendation.”

Keeping your horse properly hydrated is the most important step in protecting it against the harmful effects of heat, he says.

Read more: Reuse: You may use up to 20 words and link back to this page. Other reuse not permitted Follow us: @HorsetalkNZ on Twitter | Horsetalk on Facebook  Keeping your horse properly hydrated is the most important step in protecting it against the harmful effects of heat.

Keeping your horse properly hydrated is the most important step in protecting it against the harmful effects of heat.

If you’re preparing for a competition, Lindinger recommends trying to acclimatize your horse to the heat by spending four hours daily, at least five days a week for three weeks, in hot conditions. For best results, exercise the horse for an hour during the second hour of each of those days.

“Many riders will train their horses in the mornings or evenings, when it’s cool, then go to a competition held during the hottest part of the day. You need to get horses used to being ridden in the heat and allow them to develop the full spectrum of beneficial adaptations that come with heat acclimation.”

Lindinger says that horses who have been through a process of heat acclimation will lose more heat through sweating and respiration and will be better able to stay hydrated because they are more likely to drink.

When your horse is hot, look for shade and breezes to help cool it down, but never use a blanket or “cooler” on a horse that is sweating, he adds, suggesting the best way to cool a horse quickly is to rinse the horse’s body repeatedly with cold water and scrape off the excess water.

“You can cool the horse two degrees in 10 minutes this way: pour on the water, scrape it off, pour on more, and just keep repeating it,” says Lindinger. “The scraping part is important because otherwise the water will be trapped in the horse’s hair and will quickly warm up. By scraping and pouring on fresh, cold water you keep the cooling process going.”

Just as equestrians pack a canteen of water, some sunscreen and a hat with a brim for summer riding adventures, Lindinger says they should also equip themselves with the tools needed to protect their horses from the heat and humidity. If you prepare your horse in advance and have a plan to cool him down if he becomes overheated, he says, even the hot, muggy days of summer can be great riding fun.

Experience is something you gain a few minutes after you could have used it!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Gay3 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Dec 2015 at 1:54pm

SonoVet friends, please share. It is important to get this message out to as many as possible:

Overheating is much more dangerous for our horses than many of us would think - How to protect your horse from the summer heat

Humans cope much better with heat than horses do. Whether caused by heat and sun or by intensive work and strain, overheating poses severe health issues for horses. This is about how horses suffer from heat and which measures can be taken by responsible owners to help their equine partners.

Did you know that horses too can suffer sunstroke? Especially those with a dark coat or thin mane can be affected quickly– even without extremely high temperatures- if their paddock does not offer shade. The brain starts swelling by overheating which can cause deficits of the central system such as wobbly unsteady walk or inability to get up again when laying down. Please check and make sure your horse is really taking a nap and hasn’t fainted when lying flat out in the sun on a hot afternoon. It's always better to have checked 100 times in vain than not checking when it matters most!

Systemic Overheating poses an additional danger for your horse by raising the body temperature even when not exercising - often going hand in hand with lack of water

The most important measure to take if you see or suspect signs of overheating in your horse is to call a vet – cases of overheating are emergency cases!

Here is what you can do to help until the vet arrives:
Lead the horse to a shady place and cool legs with water (not icy cold!!) Cover the horse with a wet blanket, wet cotton rug, even an old bed sheet will do.

If your horse is down and can’t get up, try to create a screen with an umbrella or someone holding up a tarp, blanket etc

Carbo vegetabilis D12 is a homeopathic aiding circulation which can be given to the horse

DO NOT offer your horse water!! The deficits in the central nervous system can impact the swallow reflex which can lead to the horse inhaling the water and pneumonia as a follow up deficiency. The same applies for feed!

Overheating caused by excessive training:
Horses overheat up to 10 times faster than humans do. Especially those hot humid summer days pose a significant threat. Prof. Dr. Lindinger from the Guelph University in Canada says that in such a climate training for just 17 minutes can raise the horse’s body temperature to a dangerous level – this would take about 3-10 times as long before affecting a human, hence our own sensation of feeling too hot is not necessarily a good indicator whether the weather is acceptable for horse exercise or not.

Why are horses more prone than humans?
Horses have a bigger amount of active muscles which when worked create heat. As a rider you know that your horse starts sweating in the areas of the most exercised muscles first, hence sweat is a great indicator about the general level of training of your horse.

E.g. if your horse is sweating most in the neck area, this indicates that the hind is not active enough and that the horses fitness and training level is rather low. Such a horse will overheat even quicker than a well trained and exercised horse with good muscular balance.

Normally a horse’s body produces about 20 litres of sweat with intensive exercise in cool conditions. This amount is rising with higher temperatures and in hot and humid conditions it can reach up to 30 litres. Humidity means the sweat will not evaporate, so instead of cooling the body, the sweat creates a hot wet air bubble around the horse and the sweat is just dripping to the ground without doing its job. This can be fatal as the horse anyways can use only about 30 % of the sweat for cooling – in humans this number is 50%!

Overheating can lead to permanent damage and even to the death of your horse!

If the body’s own cooling mechanisms fail the body temperature can rise quickly up to 41 degrees, in muscles up to 43 degrees. Under such circumstances the body’s proteins start to decompose. If the overheating persists, the body will decrease the blood pressure, kidneys start to fail and colics occur.

The body will also lose a lot of electrolytes, and it these are not replaced, the body will become demineralized because plain water will thin the body liquids but not enrich them. This can have fatal consequences because electrolytes are important for the body’s cell metabolism. Bad or failing cell metabolism causes cramps, cardio problems such as uneven heart rhythm and nerve damages.

How to avoid overheating in the horse

Knowing about these factors should prompt responsible horse owners to rethink the way their horses are kept (shade in the paddock, enough clean water, salt and minerals, ventilation in the stables etc) and exercised. Training should be done in the cooler early morning or evening hours and riding in plain sun should be completely avoided on those hot humid days – especially on those days we as riders don’t really want to move any more than necessary!

Opening a can of worms maybe, I wonder what can be done about competitions on extremely hot days. I understand that a lot of planning, manpower and investment goes into these events and hence they can’t just be cancelled and postponed to the next weekend. But maybe there is a way to start earlier and finish later so that at least the midday sun can be avoided….

How to help your horse cool down:
Hose down your horse in a shady place. Use cool but NOT cold water
Start with the hind legs, then the front legs, the neck , then the rest of the body
Go over with the scraper to get rid of the heated up water, hose again
Always finish with scraping off excess water as this collects on the underside and can become very hot!

Source: Akademie fuer Tierheilkunde
Experience is something you gain a few minutes after you could have used it!
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