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Heat Exhaustion 101


Fall is right around the corner, but thanks to this season’s weather pattern only the past few weeks have brought high temperatures and high humidity to the Albany area.

When the heat index exceeds 130, horse owners should be cautious when riding and be diligent in providing shade and clean, fresh water, Dr. Sandy Tatarynw, Associate Veterinarian at Saratoga Equine explained.

Dehydration, muscle tremors and a temperature of 101-102 degrees Fahrenheit can be indicators that the horse is suffering from heat exhaustion. “The horse will also act dull and not want to move much. His urine might be darker, but that is not always a reliable indicator,” Tatarynw added.

“Horses suffering from heat exhaustion go through stages,” Dr. Sandy Tatarynw, Associate Veterinarian at Saratoga Equine, “you notice a lot of sweating, the horse is lathered with sweat and really blowing.”

The good news is heat stress can be avoided. “Keep your horse under good care with ready access to fresh, clean water and provide a salt block,” she said. Consuming a lot of water is not only important to keep a horse hydrated, but also for avoiding impaction colic.

“Race horses are allowed to stop and drink as much water as they feel like after a workout,” Tatarynw noted, “there is no reason to restrict their intake even though many people think a horse shouldn’t drink a lot after exercise. The horse will know how much he needs to drink.”

Regular exercise will also help you avoid heat exhaustion. The more fit a horse is the easier it will be for them to cool down after the workout is finished. “Don’t go beyond a horse’s normal fitness level on really hot and humid days. Also, ride as early in the morning or later in the evening to avoid the hottest part of the day,” she added.

Cool the horse out after a riding session. “Walk the horse out after you’re finished riding. Then take the time to rinse him off with a hose. You can even install a fan in front of his stall and let him stand in front of it while still damp and it will help the horse cool down faster,” Tatarynw said.

“Keep a thermometer at the barn. The horse’s temperature will be elevated after a workout, but if it is 103-104 degrees Fahrenheit you need to find a better way to cool out your horse,” she concluded. If the horse has a rapid pulse, heavy breathing or a temperature over 105 degrees Fahrenheit, it is time to call the vet for help.