July 27 2018
ENDURANCE GB ADVICE TO KEEP YOU AND YOUR HORSE SAFE IF YOU ARE TRAINING & COMPETING IN WARM OR HOT WEATHER
With horse welfare cemented at the heart of the sport, Endurance GB is committed to educating riders to ensure horse well-being is paramount. With consistently high summer temperatures showing no sign of abating it is important that the necessary steps are taken to ensure horses are managed correctly in the heat.
Recognising high body temperature and the risk to horse welfare is essential for riders and anyone else involved with horses at competitions. There are a number of indicators that a horse is very hot or suffering from heat exhaustion:
Excessive sweating – horse completely covered in sweat and/or sweat running from the body
Whilst they will sweat initially, if severely dehydrated they may have reduced sweating leading to reduced ability to control body temperature
Horse feels very hot to touch and may have prominent blood vessels in the skin
Ataxia (unsteadiness) – especially when stopping after exercise
High or irregular heart rate and respiratory rate
Blowing very hard (deep and laboured breathing)
Panting (fast and shallow breathing)
A high rectal temperature – above 40°C (104°F)
Horse may show little reaction to people or environment or be lethargic
Horse may appear distressed or depressed
Horse becomes colicky
Dark urine and reduced urination
Dark mucous membranes
Slow recovery after exercise
Tom Eaton-Evans, 4* FEI Endurance Veterinary Treatment Official, 2* FEI Endurance Official Veterinarian and EGB Welfare Committee Member, team vet for the British Young Riders Endurance team, explains: “Horses are susceptible to heat-related illness whilst being exercised or transported in hot weather. Endurance riders are well practised in keeping their horses cool, but in these hot summer months it is necessary to review the signs to look out for and the actions to take if your horse is overheating.”
Fellow EGB Welfare Committee member, scientific and equine consultant and researcher for FEI and BEF Dr David Marlin shares his expertise on horses at risk in the heat and potential consequences of heat exhaustion: “Older, younger, less fit, dark coloured, unclipped, sick, large and overweight horses will struggle more in the heat. If not managed properly heat exhaustion can quickly progress to heat stroke. If your horse does go down then continue to cool it aggressively and send for a vet! Severe heat stroke/heat exhaustion can lead to renal failure, COLIC, myopathy (muscle damage), laminitis, liver failure and can be fatal if not treated promptly.”
EGB advises that if you suspect your horse is overheating there are measures you should take immediately to help, including:
Remove the tack
Move your horse out of direct sunlight
Start cooling – this is best achieved with copious amounts of cool water applied all over the horse- if a hose is available use that
If ice is available this can be added to the water to help cool it further
In cases of mild heat stress horses can recover rapidly, however when coupled with dehydration or exhaustion intravenous fluids may be required to help your horse recover in which case a vet will be needed
There are number of things that can be done to reduce the risk of heat exhaustion, David Marlin adds: “Provide water at all times. Don’t remove water. Allow horses to drink immediately before, during and after exercise. If you do put on a sheet then make sure it’s a white one. White material reflects some heat whilst dark colours absorb radiant heat.”
Additional advice includes:
· Travelling Horses lose around 3-5kg per hour. Travelling is tiring, don’t leave horses standing in lorries on hot days.
· Competition – Accept your horse may not be able to achieve the same performance on a hot day.
· Electrolytes – Feed daily in feed according to level of work and weather.
· Warming-up – Cut down warm-up time or break it up and cool if necessary.
Commenting on the recent King Forest event Tom Eaton-Evans said: “The hot weather has been on all riders’ minds for the last few weeks – especially for endurance riders where it represents a particular challenge with horses out in the heat for long periods of time. ‘Crewing’ is an essential part of successful endurance riding and at the Kings Forest ride I was able to watch this in action, resulting in a quiet few days for me in the treatment clinic.
The ride organisers had ensured enough water was available for all competitors (with buckets to decant the water from the troughs to prevent infection risk), ice on hand that helped cool the water in the heat of the day and ride stables were wonderfully cool. I must congratulate all riders and their crew for their diligence in ensuring their horses remained cool and comfortable throughout the weekend, the organisers for ensuring that sufficient water and ice was provided, and the veterinary commission for their care in ensuring that the horses were fit to continue at all times.”
further information from Dr David Marlin on caring for your horse in the heat visit - http://davidmarlin.co.uk/portfolio/advice-for-horse-owners-in-hot-weather/.
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