Spring into Summer: 10 Tips for Your Horse Part 2

A summer day in the pasture. Can the bugs be far behind?
A summer day in the pasture. Can the bugs be far behind?

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With summer now rapidly approaching, you need to consider some of the specific warm weather conditions that may affect your horse. Planning a little bit ahead will have you ready to ride – or drive - as the hot weather arrives.

Here are the last 5 tips in this two part article dedicated to your horse's health.

6. Warm weather brings bugs

Birds such as swallows, swifts and martins are capable of eating pounds of flies and mosquitoes, so add a bird bath to your barnyard to entice them to help control biting insects.

For your horse that means the '€œfly fight'€ will start up again. It is better to work on your fly control right from the start before the fly numbers get out of hand. Start natural. Encourage birds to nest in and around your barn. Barn swallows and purple martins will eat flies by the thousands.

Consider feeding a pass-through fly-control product that contains insect growth regulators. These additives are very safe for horses but interfere with the outer chitin coating on insects. Be aware that these additives will affect desirable bugs such as fly parasitic wasps so don't combine those two treatments.

Keep stalls clean and pick up or drag pastures. That will help with parasite control as well as reducing fly populations. Fly tapes and fly traps can keep fly numbers down. Fly sprays, topicals and barriers such as fly masks and fly sheets may all be included as part of your fly control program.

Combining many options is often the best way to give your horse relief from these pests.

7. Another pest is the tick

Technically ticks are arachnids (like spiders) not insects. What they really are is superb vectors for spreading disease. Tick bites can spread diseases like equine anaplasmosis (previously ehrlichiosis), equine infectious anemia and Lyme Disease. A very heavy tick infestation can make your horse anemic just from blood loss!

A deer tick

A deer tick

Tick bites can spread diseases like equine anaplasmosis (previously ehrlichiosis), equine infectious anemia and Lyme Disease.

How do you go about fighting ticks? First, make the environment less attractive to ticks. Mow around your buildings frequently and mow pastures periodically. Ticks like tall grass. Ticks, and many of the hosts they love like mice, also like shrubs and brush piles. Reconsider having shrubs around your barns and buildings.

Keep brush piles from field clean up and manure piles away from pastures and turn out areas. Develop “clean zones” around the edge of your fields – a gravel or stone path a couple of feet wide would deter many ticks.

Follow up your environmental changes with sprays or topicals. Many products approved for fly control will also help with tick control.

Make it a habit to do a daily, thorough tick check of your horse, including running your hands through the mane and tail, behind elbows and under the chin. Remove ticks safely with a €œtick key and dispose of them in a jar of rubbing alcohol.

8. Sunshine at last! Too much creates problems

Many horses experience a dulling of the coat from too much sun exposure. This is seen most commonly on dark coated horses such as liver chestnuts and blacks. The hair will get a rusty tinge to it and lose its healthy shine.

Did you know?

Although all horses are susceptible to sunburn, those with light skin, lips, ears and coats are especially susceptible.

Of more concern are sunburn areas such as around the muzzle, on white facial markings and around the eyes. Horses with no pigment in those areas can, and will, get sunburn if left out in bright sunshine. Along with feeling uncomfortable, those areas are prone to develop squamous cell cancerous growths.

There are fly masks that provide some sunscreen effect and they are certainly worth trying. In addition, consider putting sun lotion on your horse'€™s susceptible areas. Zinc oxide preparations tend to remain on the longest and provide the best coverage. Human sun lotions can be used.

Another alternative is to limit the hours your horse is outside during bright sunlight. Consider putting him in the stall from 10 am until 3 pm. This is especially helpful if you have limited shade in your pastures.

Provide shade outdoors if at all possible. Some horse owners simply put their horses out at night and keep them in during the day.

9. Water, water everywhere!

With hot weather, comes an increased need for water for your horse. This is especially true if your horse is working hard. To encourage drinking, make sure your horse has plenty of fresh, clean water.

Buckets, troughs and tubs get algai growth very quickly in warm weather. Dump standing water containers at least once a day. Scrub them thoroughly at least once a week. Running water sources will tend to stay clean longer.

Consider this

Signs to look for in a horse that is dehydrated include weak pulse, skin tenting, and poor capillary refill, and a horse who is electrolyte depleted may be unusually nervous, have muscle tremors, or move very stiffly.

If your horse is a poor drinker, consider adding a bit of flavoring to encourage more water consumption. Something as simple as dropping a peppermint candy in his bucket may be enough to get your horse drinking more.

As well as fresh water, make sure your horse has adequate and appropriate salt available. Pay attention to salt consumption! Some horses will literally €œ"chow down"€ on a salt block while others will avoid them.

Discuss a salt based additive to your horse'€™s diet with your veterinarian or equine nutritionist if need be. The same is true for electrolytes. The average horse does not need electrolytes added except on special occasions but very hard working horses may benefit from some added to their diets.

10. A horse is as sound as his hoofs

In a big change from spring mud, you can have summer drought. Hot summer weather with little or no rain means hard, dry ground. The lack of moisture will start to dry out your horse's hooves. This is especially true if your horse spends much of his time in a stall or on a dry lot.

Hoofs need just the right amount of moisture to stay healthy. Consider a hoof dressing or even using a natural oil like coconut or vegetable oil. All hoof dressings act to seal moisture in and actually will repel outside moisture in many cases.


A healthy hoof also relies on a healthy diet, so feed your horse a balanced diet that isn't too rich in carbohydrates to maintain good, inner-hoof health.

It is important to have the hoofs wet before applying the dressing. That will seal the moisture in. Treat the hoof from the coronary band down and apply some underneath as well. Check feet daily for cracks and brittleness. This is especially important if your horse goes barefoot.

Remember that a healthy hoof also relies on a healthy diet. Discuss supplements with your veterinarian or farrier if your horse tends to have dry feet.

With some preparation and extra attention to a few details, your horse will weather the change in seasons just fine.

First five tips of Spring into Summer

See the first 5 tips of this two part article Spring into Summer to learn more about protecting your horse's health.

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About the Author

Deb M. Eldredge, DVM

Deb M. Eldredge, DVM is a Cornell graduate and horse lover from early childhood. She was active in 4-H and Pony Club, riding mostly huntseat but also Western. She has competed in various horse show venues as well as competitive trail rides and small three day events. At Cornell she was a member of the Women's Polo team.

Dr. Eldredge is a national award winning writer from both the Cat Writers Association and the Dog Writers Association of America. She lives in upstate NY on a small farm with 3 elderly horses, 1 miniature horse and 2 donkeys as well as various other animals.

Visit Deb Eldredge's Google+ Page