In most parts of the country kids and their horses are getting ready to spend a week at fair, and with the heat and humidity the months of July and August can impose, keeping both cool can be a challenge.
“Heat stroke and heat stress are a real concern for both horses and their exhibitors when you get temperatures in the mid-80s – especially when the humidity and dew points are high,” says Laurie Cerny, editor and publisher of www.good-horsekeeping.com . “It’s particularly a problem for those kids and animals that haven’t been conditioned to work in the heat.”
Here are some tips for getting through the heat of fair week:
1. Think hydration. Horses should be drinking at least ten gallons of water a day- and more when it’s hot. To make sure they are drinking enough water you can sprinkle a free choice mineral (with salt) over their grain. Providing electrolytes is also important. Add one liter of Gatorade to a five-gallon pail of water . . .you want to also have a pail of plain water in the stall as well. Soaking hay is another way to make sure you are getting water into your horse. Kids also need to drink plenty of water and electrolyte based drinks. Keep a bottle of water and Gatorade in the grooming bag or pail that you take out to the make-up area. Limit pop and other sugary drinks on show days.
2. Consider clothing. Stay away from black show clothes on extremely hot days – especially black felt hats. Opt instead for a light color. If you only have one outfit (and it’s black, or another dark color) at least change out your hat to a lighter color, or to a straw hat. Wear a sleeveless blouse under hunt coats and wear light or buff-color breeches. Keep blanketing to a minimum. If your horse isn’t used to blankets and slinkies fair week is not the time to start using them. A horse will stay a lot cooler without a stable sheet, although it will mean you have to groom them in the morning before your class . . . or you may even have to give a spot bath.
3. Always have access to shade and good ventilation. Take breaks during long show days under trees or in an aisle of a barn. If electric is available, put a box fan up on the outside of your horse’s stall.
4. Bath horse and hose them off often. A bath is a good way to cool your horse down, however, DO NOT stand a horse in the sun after it’s been fully bathed . . . it will cause them to heat up. Hose only the legs and chest in between classes as a way to offer your horse some relief during the show day.
5. Offer small, light meals. This is a good idea for both horses and kids. Bring fruit and light snacks for kids to eat throughout the show day, and stay away from heavy greasy foods like corn dogs and elephant ears. Offer your horse smaller amounts of hay and grain several times throughout the day. Consider feeding a low starch grain that has less sugars and carbohydrates.