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Horse drinking

What to do with your horse, pony, donkey or mule when temperatures soar

10th August 2023

Equines are generally better at dealing with the heat than humans but, there are a few factors to consider if you are caring for one during a heatwave.

Bransby Horses’ Heatwave Tips

  •  Make sure there is shelter:

This could be a manmade polytunnel or purpose-built wooden shelter, tree or hedge offering good shade during the hottest part of the day. It needs to be safe, especially if your horse or pony likes to rub on posts.

  • Bring in any known heat-strugglers:

This might be very old, young or overweight animals. Bringing them in from the field to a cool shaded barn or stable, which has a through breeze, before it gets too hot, is a good idea. Make sure they have adequate water to drink and enrichment such as forage, which could be soaked hay to increase water intake, to pick at.

  • Wet sponge over any equines that are sweating and if possible hose with cool water:

Horses cool down by convection, which is when heat is lost to the environment during water loss. Hosing down with cool water is one way to lower body temperature. Hosing throughout the day is also a good way to keep them cool in the intense heat. It is important not to cover a horse with wet rugs, as this would have the opposite effect by preventing the convection of heat.

  • Provide enrichment:

Throughout the day offer something such as prepared ice cubes, with added herbs such as mint if you have them. These can be made using small buckets of water placed in the freezer the night before.

  • Ride early or in the evening:

In extreme hot weather consider riding in the evening if it’s cooler or earlier in the mornings. Also think about making changes to any planned vet, farrier or dentist visits to avoid causing unnecessary stress.

Other points to consider

Have a good supply of fresh drinking water:

If you don’t have an auto-fill water trough, make sure you put out much more water than usual. Horses can easily drink up to 50 litres of water a day – this can double in hot weather.

Give electrolytes to replace what is lost through sweating

Electrolytes are responsible for keeping blood pressure and cell and nerve functions active so it’s important to replace these. Usually, these are replenished in a horse’s feed, but if they have been sweating excessively, supplementary electrolytes can be administered. Make sure your horse is used to the taste of electrolytes as it can put them off drinking altogether – alternatively offer both electrolytes and plain water.

Apply sunblock to sensitive areas such as the muzzle

Horses can suffer sunburn too, especially those with pink skin. The muzzle is the most commonly affected area, but it is also important to check areas with little hair cover. Reapply multiple times a day if possible. Be careful not to apply any oils or gels which do not have SPF.


For more hot weather information, advice and guidance, you can contact us on 01427 787 369.