Ask the Vet – How hard to work a horse in the heat

Ask the Vet – How hard to work a horse in the heat

DAN: “My Dutch Warmblood is
17.3 hands and 1,500 pounds. We live in central
Florida where the summers can be brutally hot and humid.” I can only imagine. “He is 18 years old, and has
been in work most of his life as a jumper for years,
and now does dressage. He has always sounded
a bit heavy breathed after working for
about 30 minutes, but seems to recover afterward. My trainer says that’s
just him and he’s fine. I’m often scheduled for training
later in the morning, or even afternoons, and have passed
on the lesson for fear it will be hard on him. But I feel like everyone thinks
I’m babying him too much. How much should I
push him in the heat? With summer just around the
corner I’m already stressed.” DR LYDIA GRAY: Yeah. Maybe she should do the
reverse winter bird thing where the people from Florida
move up here when it’s hot. I don’t know. That’s a thing. DAN: Yeah. Our summers are beautiful. DR LYDIA GRAY: So I feel like
you know your horse best. And if you think he
is uncomfortable, and you need to not do a lesson
because it’s a particularly hot and humid day, or
call a lesson short, or have a light day,
then I think that’s fine. And don’t be affected
by peer pressure. I’m going to let you have the
conversation with your trainer. I’m not getting in
the middle of that. I would also tell you to have
a conversation with your vet, because it is possible that
now, while it sounds like she’s got a big, heavy horse that I
am not surprised that he doesn’t deal well with heat. Because if you think
about eventing, they don’t use 17.3 hand
Dutch Warmbloods for a reason. They don’t recover well
from cross-country. But talk to your vet,
because it’s possible your horse could have a medical
reason for not recovering well, or just struggling
with performance when it’s hot and humid,
something like maybe he’s borderline anhidrosis,
like non sweater. Maybe he’s got a respiratory
condition brewing, like inflammatory airway
disease, or something like that, allergies. Where just he’s fine
if it’s all great, but the minute he gets above a
threshold, he begins to suffer. When you talk to
your vet, you’ll also want to go
over the best way how to make sure you know your
horse’s vitals, temperature, pulse, and respiration,
but also the best way to cool your horse. And a lot of people don’t know– I can’t reach it. But it’s that black thing. And this thing. So there’s a saying. Did we just knock
everything over? DAN: I knocked everything over. Sorry. DR LYDIA GRAY: OK. Great. Spray, scrape, repeat. And so you want it
to cool him down. Because he’s big. When you have a lot
of muscle, then it takes a long time for
the heat to dissipate. DAN: Yes. DR LYDIA GRAY: So
that may be part of why he feels uncomfortable. But so you spray
them with cold water. You could hose them
or use a bucket. Ice is fine. You can add rubbing alcohol to
the water, and it cools faster. You can put it right
over the muscles on the horse’s whole body. None of those rumors
you’ve heard about causing cramps or tying up are true. DAN: Yes. DR LYDIA GRAY: OK. I feel like we’ve sort of– DAN: We’ve all heard that. DR LYDIA GRAY: OK. So you get them wet,
and immediately you scrape them off. And you can feel that
water is hot already. DAN: Yeah. DR LYDIA GRAY: So you have
to get the hot water off. Otherwise it acts like an
insulator or a raincoat. And it makes them hotter. DAN: So you think you’re
doing something good, but you might be doing
something detrimental. DR LYDIA GRAY: Have
you seen the people that they’ve got a hot horse. They’re trying to cool him
out, and they put a wet towel over him? DAN: Mhm. DR LYDIA GRAY: Don’t do that. That’s the worst thing possible. Because you are
keeping the heat in. DAN: Interesting. DR LYDIA GRAY: Yeah. That’s terrible. DAN: So hose him off. And then scrape that off. DR LYDIA GRAY:
Immediately scrape. And hose him off again. Spray, scrape, repeat. It’s like your hair on that. The shampoo says
lather, rinse, repeat. So you just keep doing it. DAN: My hair’s really short. I don’t usually have
to repeat that often. DR LYDIA GRAY: Until the
water comes off cool. And you can let him drink. You can keep him walking. If you can find a breeze
or shade, that’s ideal. DAN: And what you just
brought up, letting him drink. I think that’s another
misconception a lot of people. They think if they let their
horse drink if they’re hot, they’re going to colic
or something like that. DR LYDIA GRAY: No. Because it cools them off. It rehydrates them. And a really interesting tidbit. Horses will drink. They’ll have a thirst. That thirst mechanism kicks in
right when they’re done working and they’re hot. Or even while
they’re working, like if you see endurance horses. But if you give them
time, and they cool off, they’re like, nah, I’m good. DAN: Oh. DR LYDIA GRAY: So let them
drink when they’re hot. DAN: If they’re
thirsty, let them drink. DR LYDIA GRAY: You know what? You heard it right here. If they’re thirsty,
let them drink. DAN: I think that movie
“Black Beauty” did us all wrong as far as they don’t
let you drink when it’s hot. DR LYDIA GRAY: So
trust your instincts. I’m going to wrap this up. Trust your instincts. So talk to your vet. Talk, again, to your trainer. Make sure you know your horse’s
normals, and know how to cool. And I like the idea of working
when it’s early if you can. Not working on those
hot, humid days. I mean, it’s the thing. Some horses just
don’t handle the heat, like people don’t
handle the heat. I mean, I’m a delicate flower. So when it gets warm,
I like to stay inside. DAN: Duly noted. [LAUGHING] Well, hopefully that
was helpful, Mary Ann. And keep us posted with
how your horse is doing.

4 thoughts on “Ask the Vet – How hard to work a horse in the heat

  1. Timely!!! My Dad said “Don’t ride tomorrow honey, there’s no need to stress your horse~ it’s just too hot.” He is 75yr old Florida Rancher✊ Thanks Dr Lydia and Dan💯

  2. What I do to cook my horse off after a ride is this. So I hose him off, but I keep the cold water running for about 10-15 minutes on him. Does that still insulate him? He always feels cooler once I'm done, he also gets the fan on him after for 3-5 minutes. He never gets super hot. But after a hard work he does get hotter than normal.

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