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A Handy Guide to Summer Health Problems for Horses

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horse trotting in the sunshine

As summer seems to have finally arrived, our clients have increasingly been asking me for answers to the common equine issues that they encounter at this time of the year, so here’s my quick and handy guide!


Why is it important for horses to have fresh water constantly on offer and how can horses be encouraged to drink?

Dehydration can lead to impaction colic due to the faeces becoming abnormally dry in the large intestine.

Fresh water must be constantly available so that your horse is never thirsty and always has a steady flow through his intestine and kidneys.

Sprinkling a handful of table salt onto his feed can encourage your horse to drink more.

Electrolyte supplementation should also be considered if excessive sweating has occurred.

Soaking hay and wetting feed can also help to increase the daily water intake.

horse drinking


What can horse owners do to deter the flies and how should they treat bites?

A good fly repellent is essential and should be applied to your horse on a daily basis.

If bites are swollen and painful, cold hosing can help.

If the bites are very itchy or become infected then veterinary attention may be required to supply anti-inflammatory or antibiotic medications.


How dangerous are allergies and what can owners do to reduce the chances of their horse being affected?

The common things that horses are allergic to can be divided into three groups:

  • Skin allergens like flies, midges and mitres
  • Respiratory allergens like airborne particles of dust and pollen
  • Ingested allergens found in certain forage and food

Allergies in susceptible humans can cause a life threatening anaphylactic reaction, but this is extremely rare in horses.

Keeping horses away from the allergen or protecting them from it with barriers like rugs or fly screens in stables may help.

Fly masks can act as a barrier to allergens


How can owners of laminitic horses reduce the risks of a flare up?

You need a strict adherence to a grass-free and low-sugar diet.

It’s also wise to rule out any underlying hormonal or endocrine causes like Cushing’s disease or Equine metabolic syndrome.

Sweet itch

What are the symptoms of sweet itch and how can owners keep on top of it?

Symptoms of sweet itch in horses include an intense itching that results in rubbing of the roots of the mane and tail.

This is due to a biting midge that only feeds at dawn and dusk so stabling at those times is advised as well as fly rugs and a good insecticide (for example Deosect®).

Horse riding in warm weather

How can I keep my horse safe from the heat and aid post exercise recovery?

If you’re out at a competition, horses should be kept in the shade if possible for example under a tree or in a well ventilated trailer or lorry.

If they get overheated competing, then washing or hosing with cold water is advisable.

To compensate for losses from sweating, horses can be given an electrolyte supplement in water, feed or oral paste in a syringe.

Riding on hard ground

What are the dangers of riding on hard ground and what can owners do to reduce the risk of impaction injuries?

Hard, compacted ground causes concussive stress and strain on bones, joints and ligaments.

Owners should avoid it if at all possible and instead ride on a specially prepared equestrian surface.

Sun burn

When and why should owners apply sun cream to their horses?

Horses with areas of white hair coat colouring usually have pink or non-pigmented skin underneath.

This is especially seen in horses who have white markings on their faces or white legs. These areas are prone to get sunburnt.

Sun cream should be applied to prevent it and also decrease the risk of skin cancer.

In the area around the eyes where cream can’t be applied then a UV filtering face mask should be used.

This article was written by Aoife for Your Horse magazine.

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