Have you ever wondered how and why a horse gets so hot doing something that appears to be so effortless? To gallop, jump, piaffe… for a horse to simply move forward, he converts food substrates into energy fuel that drives the muscle. In the process heat is released as a by-product of this metabolic conversion. Science has proven that the energy production is only 20% efficient, and the remaining 80% becomes generated heat.
So clearly without an effective way to cool down, a horse could generate enough internal heat to “boil to death” so to speak. What a horse will do to relieve the heat buildup is through evaporative cooling, meaning using the sweat to bring the heat from the horse’s skin to the cooling affects of air. This constitutes about 65% of a horse’s cooling process, while their lungs might blow off up to another 25%.
So what happens when a horse cannot adapt to hot humid conditions, if they don’t develop the ability to sweat it off? Heat exhaustion. And because sweating is a horse’s primary means of cooling itself, horses that don’t sweat can become overheated and perform poorly or even collapse.
Recently Boyd Martin, world-class eventer and USET team member, confided that his four star horse Trading Aces (aka Oscar) was having a hard time reaching peak fitness. After much consideration it was discovered that Oscar suffered from anhidrosis, the inability to sweat properly. Once diagnosed and treated, Oscar was able to get to top form, proving it at the 2014 Rolex with a double clear on cross-country day.
If you suspect that your horse may be struggling with anhidrosis, consider boosting up his endocrine system with Kevadal. Kevadel contains kelp, which is widely revered for helping with mineral deficiency. And since kelp is a natural source of iodine it is considered to be safer and better for the body than chemical synthetics. The horse needs iodine for efficient thyroid and pituitary function (the thyroid is responsible for regulating body temperature). It’s a natural solution for a sticky situation.
Here are some tips to keep your horse cool this summer:
- If you’re bringing a horse used to a cool, dry climate into a hot, humid one, allow him to acclimate with 10 – 14 days of turnout and light work before returning to regular training and showing.
- Get your horse “legged up” or conditioned before the hot months. This way you won’t have to do distance riding or interval work in addition to regular schooling when it’s warmest.
- Work your horse during the coolest parts of the day–usually morning or evening.
- Observe your horse closely during exercise for signs of overheating, such as rapid breathing or panting, rapid heart rate and fatigue.
- Cool your horse off with water as cold as he will tolerate! Upper level event horses are routinely sponged off with ice water until the water scraped off is the same temperature as the water going on.
- Provide cool air with good barn ventilation, fans (especially misting fans).
Have any questions, please write us or call. And as always, thank you for riding along with us.