It is hot (or getting hot) in many parts of the world, and riders are out and about enjoying riding their horse. Whether riding in shows and competitions, enjoying trail rides, taking lessons in an arena, sorting cows, racing at the track or feeling the thrill of a fast canter along the beach, there is no better time to own a horse!
However, high temperatures can pose a serious, sometimes deadly, risk to your horse. Heatstroke aka overheating or heat stress can occur not just from riding, but also from trailering, being in a hot stuffy stall or even being out in the field with the sun blaring down and no shade. I believe every rider should know the 5 key signs of heatstroke and what to do if this occurs. Equally important, every rider should know how to prevent it!
What is Heatstroke? What Can It Cause?
Heatstroke is not a stroke in the conventional sense of how you may think about a human having a stroke. Rather, it is the horse’s inability to cool him or herself down and get rid of excess heat. Like humans, horses have a natural cooling process in their body. This involves sweating and purging heat from nasal breathing/respiration (much like a dog may pant). But, in some cases of exposure to high heat levels, the horse may be unable to cool themselves. To try and compensate, the horse may sweat excessively, increase its respiration rate, and even redirect blood flow closer to the skin to aid in the cooling process. However, excess sweating can cause dehydration and loss of electrolytes, and redistributing blood flow closer to the skin can cause the brain and other organs to receive less oxygen. Left untreated, this can cause colic, seizures, severe muscle cramps and even death.
What Are the Signs of Heatstroke?
Here are 5 key signs.
What are the Treatments for Heatstroke?
The best treatment is actually not a treatment. It is prevention. Here are some prevention tips.
Have you ever dealt with a horse that suffered from heatstroke? What happened? Share your story on our Stretch Your Horse Facebook page.
Ilene Nessenson, JD, Certified Equine Bodyworker, is the creator of the Stretch Your Horse App. She has been an equine bodyworker, saddle fitter, and saddle reflocker for over 11 years.
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