Horses and Heatwaves

Maintaining Equine Welfare During Heatwave and Leading up to/ During WPC Camps


Due to the current prolonged heatwave we have some advice from our resident camp vet and Master of Horse, Jamie Knapp BVSc, MRCVS. Please read these guidelines carefully and act accordingly as it is very important that we ensure the best horse and pony welfare at all time. We will be taking all precautions throughout camp weeks.

Workload and Fitness

It is vital that your horses and ponies are fit enough for camp. It can take up to three weeks for fit horses to acclimatise to working in the heat. Please consider this when preparing for camps as we will be riding during the day. Older, young, less fit, dark coloured, heavy coated and overweight horses will struggle more.

 

Dehydration

Horses and ponies can become dehydrated very rapidly in this weather, especially if working or travelling. Clean water should be available at all times and drinking before, during and straight after exercise should be allowed. Field troughs must be checked twice daily and baled/ refilled if water has become hot. It is recommended that your equine is allowed to drink an unlimited amount of cold water after exercise – you will not harm them.

We strongly recommend feeding daily electrolytes leading up to and during camp (and after if you are sustaining the workload) which replace vital body salts lost through the sweating process. They are available from your local feed merchant or vet and our experience is that feed additive form is easier to manage in a camp environment than those added to water. Either way, your horse/ pony needs to be acclimatised to them 2/3 weeks before camp. Only ever give the recommended amount – more is not better! If in doubt, seek your vet’s advice.

 

Rapid Cooling

COLD WATER, COLD WATER, COLD WATER! In spite of some myths, you will not ‘shock’ your horse or pony by applying large volumes of water, or trap heat by not scraping afterwards. Try and stay in the shade if possible and keep your horse/ pony walking. Do not put wet towels over the horse as these will actually insulate and delay the cooling process. Unless you need to use a fly sheet (white is best to reflect the heat), any rug will insulate heat to an extent - so no rug is better.

 

Clipping

If your horse or pony has a thick coat, we recommend ‘clipping out’ (taking all hair off) during hot weather

 

Signs of heat exhaustion (leading to heat stroke)

  • Slow recovery after work, lack of performance

  • Fast shallow breathing

  • Reluctant to eat or drink

  • Muscle spasms

  • Dark urine

  • Dark mucous membranes (check gums/ inner eye lid etc)

  • Unsteady on feet, collapse

 

If in doubt, cool aggressively as described and call your vet straight away!