Horses and the hot weather of Orange County

How Hot is too hot for you horse?

For all of the fun that the summer sun brings, hot weather poses a big challenge to the horse (and its owner). Simply stated, horses really aren’t hot weather creatures, and working them in the heat of the day can cause some big risks.
When it comes to handling high temperatures, the biggest problem for horses is their size and shape. The horse’s body is big and wide, and doesn’t dissipate heat well. There’s very little body surface, relative to the size of their body, from which they can get rid of heat. So, the organs inside the body stay hot even while the body surface tries to get rid of heat as fast as it can. Add the pad and saddle to the surface only makes it worse or even more so forgetting to take off their blankets further reduces the area from which body heat can be lost.

The only other way that horses can try to cool off is to sweat. As the water in sweat evaporates, it cools the horse, slightly. But sweat also causes the horse to lose body water and body salts (electrolytes), so, while it’s an effective means of cooling, over time, excessive sweating can have some bad consequences for the horse in terms of dehydration, and, in severe cases, abnormalities associated with electrolyte loss.

What should you do then? The best thing to do is to avoid riding your horse in the heat entirely. If the temperature is pushing up into the 90s, ride early in the morning, or late in the evening, and don’t put your horse at risk. Keep him in a stall, and, ideally, put a fan in the stall to keep the air moving (make sure he can’t reach the cord – electrocution is no fun, either). If your horse is in pasture, make sure that there’s cover, or shade, so that he can get out of the sun.

During the day, make sure that your horse has free access to fresh water. Check the water temperature, too –sometimes those pipes get piping hot and therefore the water is hot! If there are multiple horses in a pasture, put out several water sources, so no one gets left out.

For horses that are resting, or not exercising excessively in the heat, electrolyte supplementation generally isn’t needed. For others If you’re so inclined, you can make your own electrolyte mix by combining equal parts of iodized salt and “Lite” salt, a tablespoon a day should be more than enough.

If you are riding your horse in the heat, take some simple steps to make sure that he stays as cool as possible:

1. Always allow your horse to drink while he’s exercising. There’s an old myth out there that says horses shouldn’t drink while their working, but that myth is not only wrong, it’s dangerous.

2. Make concerted efforts to cool your horse down, particularly if exercise is going to be prolonged (endurance, eventing, etc.). Water is your horse’s best friend when it comes to cooling. Hose baths, followed by scraping – which helps the water evaporate – are wonderful. Sponging the horse with a cold, wet sponge can help, too.

3. Remove insulating materials, such as saddles, blankets, or pads.

4. Consider clipping your horse if he’s got a heavy coat – it’ll help water evaporate more easily.

5. Pink skinned horses can sunburn – consider using sun-blocking ointments, such as zinc oxide, on pink muzzles.

Heat stroke can happen in horses, and, if it does, it’s an emergency that should require immediate veterinary care. Watch for signs such as increased breathing rate, or panting (normally, horses, breath 4 – 16 times per minute), increased heart rate, profuse sweating – or worse, no sweating at all, from a condition known as anhydrosis, for which there is no effective cure – elevated body temperature (above 102 degrees F), or depression.

Fortunately, most people seem to be pretty sensible when it comes to riding and exercising horses when it’s hot outside. Occasionally, there is an overzealous horse owner that just has to ride no matter what the temperature is outside and unfortunately that sometimes will end with a emergency visit so hopefully that won’t be you!


The wellness exam in the horse industry has not received the attention that our small animal counterparts have. Every year your dog or cat receives its annual physical exam, annual blood work, fecal and vaccinations as needed. Medical problems may or may not come up during these exams and you walk away free of worry at that moment of your pets health. Sometimes problems are detected during these annual visits that are addressed before they become bigger problems. This medicine isn’t implemented in our industry and I find more and more I am called out after an issue has already become a much bigger and harder to manage medical or lameness problem. A proactive approach to the health of your horse should start today, so I started thinking how I could add value to this for you my client. What I have come up with in conjunction with a leading diagnostic laboratory is to offer annual blood work to include a

  • Fecal
  • CBC ( complete blood count)
  • Chemistry panel

for a fraction of the cost. All you need to do is schedule an annual physical. Ordinarily the blood work would cost you for everything listed: $260. I am offering special pricing to my clients for $160.

During the exam expect a full physical at the cost of $85.00. If you would also like to schedule additional vaccinations , dental or soundness evaluations we can at that time as well. I just need to know ahead of time so i can schedule the appropriate time for you so we aren’t rushed. I am also an advocate of proper nutrition and work hard to cater to your individual horse needs to establish the proper nutrients they need. If you come prepared with a list of diet and supplements your horse receives I will take it with me and design something better if needed or let you know what you are doing is fine too!. I hope many of you will take advantage of this opportunity to be the #1 advocate for your horse’s health!

One last thing.

Vaccination schedule for the summer is as follows:

San Juan Capistrano ( includes all stables and private residences) : Monday July 17th

Huntington Beach and Costa Mesa: Tuesday July 11

Anaheim and Orange Park Acres: Monday July 17th
San Juan Capistrano ( includes all stables and private residences) : Monday July 17th

Serrano Creek and Nellie Gail : Tuesday July 18

Coto de Caza and Trabuco Canyon: Monday July 24

Please call me or message me via text or email to schedule a specific time, Plan on 15-30 minutes to answer questions you may have for me during your visit. If I don’t have your specific location posted here just let me know what day and time works for you and I will work with your schedule.

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