by Phoebe Bechtolt
Summer in southwest Colorado is normally around 80 degrees each day. This is a great temperature but with the hot sun the heat feels intense. As the mercury tops off, there are several ways to ensure your equine partner is comfortable and time with your horse is more pleasant.
1. Times for Turnout: Flying pests are the nemesis of horse owners. They usually have a predictable schedule for irritating you and your horse. My horses won’t graze in the evenings because the mosquitoes and gnats are at the worst at dusk. Pay attention to what time of day your horses seem most irritated and then provide some type of relief for them. A cool, dark barn, fly sprays and lotions, and fans are good options.
2. Shade and Sprinklers: We are lucky to have irrigation sprinklers on the property. Our horses enjoy the saturating spray of these sprinklers while they graze. Add in a bonus light breeze and they get natural air conditioning. If you have a garden hose, hook up a rotating sprinkler. Standing misters are also available and make for a gentle air cooler that can be placed in many locations.
3. Older Horses and Heat: Geriatric horses are especially susceptible to overheating from high temperatures. Consider body clipping a Cushing’s syndrome horse. Provide shade and a nice breeze when possible. Cooling leg wraps are a nice way to provide some relief. Our 30-year-old Icelandic pony enjoys his time in the shade next to the cool water of the irrigation ditch. I also open the barn doors during the day to let the air flow through and it is a great reprieve for him.
4. Sun Burn: I have several horses with white faces. I have never had much trouble with sunburn. However a fly mask with a nose cover is a great way to protect pink skinned eyes and pink noses. If you have pink skin elsewhere, consider using zinc oxide as a protector.
5. Fresh Water and Salt: Comfort is certainly important, but probably the most vital components of summer horse care are constant clean water, white salt and electrolytes. I have found a wonderful new product for my 100-gallon plastic water tanks. It is a cover that inhibits algae growth, keeps out hay and debris and allows livestock to drink. I always supplement with electrolytes in the summer, and my consistent favorite is Formula 707 Restore. It is palatable and easy to feed.
6. Ticks and Bugs: Insects are definitely the most annoying subject of horses and summer. Solutions for repelling and killing insects are almost endless. Don’t be afraid to try some new products. I love a repellent that I can rub on tender areas and if I can’t apply a topical repellent everyday, there are concentrated spot treatments. For my horses summering in the mountains, I pour baby oil on their tails and under parts. It helps collect dirt that provides natural fly cover, and it repels ticks.
7. Get Squeaky Clean: Too many baths can be bad for a horses coat and hooves, but washing off after extreme sweating helps keep flies from being attracted to your equine pal.
I hope these ideas help make your time in the barn and saddle more pleasant. Ride when it’s cool, swim when it’s hot and enjoy these wonderful summer months. Happy Trails from southwest Colorado.