Horses should be ‘sweating like a horse’

When the temperatures reach the triple digits, horse trainer Cheri Vogelpohl Barnard likes nothing better than to see paddocks full of sweaty horses.

“I want to see them sweaty. If they’re not sweating, then I get worried,” she said, adding if they’re sweating, “I know their ‘thermostat’ is working, but if they are also panting, then they are starting to overheat.”

Barnard, the manager and head trainer at Diamond TR near the Perry/Pulaski county line, looks after 56 horses and 40 riders of all disciplines. She takes every precaution to ensure her horses and her riders are safe in the heat.

“We make sure the horses have enough salt available. We put salt in their feed in the morning and they have their salt blocks out where they can get to it and so they will drink,” Barnard said. “We make sure they’ve got shade, whether it’s under trees, or for the ones kept near the barn, we open the barn up so they can get in under the shade.”

Another job is ensuring the horses have cool water. “Like humans, they won’t drink it when it’s hot.”

Kay Jordan, director of the Pulaski County Humane Society, said owners need to watch water supplies carefully.

“At my house, I have a 100-gallon water tank for my horses. I fill it half full in the morning and by afternoon, I have to add cold water or dump it because it’s reached bathwater temperature,” she said.

Barnard’s water troughs are equipped with float valves. To get to the water, the horses have to press the float, which ensures fresh, cool water each time they drink.

Some horses need to be watched closer than others, she said. “Older horses and the ones who are more out of shape are more vulnerable to the heat, just like people.”

If Barnard sees horses panting and otherwise showing signs of overheating, she gets them inside, hosed off and in front of a fan.

She also watches out for her riding clients, having recently cancelled riding lessons due to a forecast high of 106 degrees. When riders are on site, Barnard makes sure they have water and a light snack before they put feet in stirrups. At the first sign of trouble, she pulls them off the horse and into air conditioning.

When temperatures recently reached 97 by mid-morning, Barnard was taking her own advice. “I’m going to go home and work in the air conditioning for a while,” she said.

Jeremy Powell, University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension veterinarian, had this advice for horse owners and barn managers:

Horses have the ability to sweat to maintain their body temperature. However, high humidity conditions reduce a horse’s evaporative cooling ability. If horses are kept in barns, fans and water misters can be set up to keep cool air circulating during hot weather.

If horses are kept in pastures, there should be ample shade available.

Always keep cool, fresh water available for your horse during hot summer weather.

Exercise should be limited to the early morning or late evening hours to take advantage of the coolest part of the day.

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