May 31, 2011

IR horses and heat

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We’ve hit the first heat wave of summer. Two weeks ago the highs some times reached 80. Suddenly, the temperatures are close to 100F all this week. High temperatures plus high humidity means that the horses (and their humans) are feeling the heat as if Atlas’ burden was sudden dropped on their shoulders.

Two out of three of my bay wonder mares are relatively okay in the heat. Kasane gets irritated in the heat if she’s ridden. No big deal. Cut her a little slack, hose her off, and she’s fine. Prize gets tired easily, but at 26, she is allowed to get tired.

Isis is miserable. Yesterday, the first truly oppressively hot day of the year took its toll. She drank three buckets of water during the day. She wasn’t interested in her grain until after the sun went down and things started cooling off. When it’s hot out, her eyes looked glazed over and she stands under one of the fans. Anyone who has had a headache or been bothered by heat would recognize how she looks.

The barn managers and I have tried everything we can to make Isis comfortable: Isis has two fans in her stall, is hosed down regularly, gets electrolytes in her grain, and is hosed down with cool water several times during the day.

Last year, the heat came on gradually. Isis had time to adapt. I don’t remember her being affected like this last year — but then again, I don’t remember exactly how she was last summer. I remember she had a hard time with the heat and that there wasn’t much I could do to help her beyond what we were already doing.

The barn owner called me this morning at 8:30 AM worried that Isis was having another EPM episode. She walked into her stall, and then didn’t want to move. She didn’t touch her grain or her hay. Her behavior this morning mirrored her behavior last night during later afternoon and evening when I helped feed. The barn owner hosed Isis off to help her cool down and turned her two stall fans on. By 9:30 she started eating her food and hay. Her temperature was 99.6 (within normal range).

Isis’ reaction to the heat seems to be consistent every year. As she gets older, she has a harder time dealing with the heat and the change in weather. Once summer fully arrives, she seems to adapt a little better. She never feels quite right, except for those blessed low humidity days when the bite of the heat isn’t quite as sharp.

Isis’ behavior made me wonder exactly when do you have to call the vet out if a horse is having trouble with the heat. As soon as I hear anything, I’ll post an update.

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