Indian summer weaves its way between cold snaps here in wild, wonderful West Virginia. I welcome the warm sunshine which glows through the foliage. I can take off my winter coat, but the horses can’t.
As I wait for the wash bucket to fill to sponge off a very sweaty Bogey, I think about the challenges Indian summer presents to horses, and the ways a natural horseman can meet those needs.
Provide plenty of clean water. Even if he doesn’t appear sweaty, your horse is struggling to keep his temperature down under all that winter wool.
Make sure your horse has access to the electrolytes and minerals that he needs. Whether you use a traditional salt block or, as we prefer at Natural Horse Training Methods, free choice loose minerals, be sure your horse is provided for. If your horse is in heavy training, this may be a good time to supplement with additional electrolytes. Beware of formulas with lots of sugar and artificial flavors and colors.
Be aware of your horse’s exertion level during work. A natural horsemanship exercise which may be easy under normal circumstances may cause more stress on a warm day to a horse with a thick winter coat. Adjust rest periods accordingly.
Rethink your routine. If heat is going to stress your horse unduly, plan on a slower workout. Practice perfecting tough exercises at walk. The precision you gain will enhance those same movements at faster gaits when the heat wave breaks.
Sponge your horse off well after a training session. Slosh him with cool water then immediately scrape him, several times over. Body heat transferred to the water will be removed when you use your sweat scraper. If you do not sweat scrape, the layer of water on the horse will have the same effect as a thermal blanket! Sloshing and scraping over and over will help pull heat out quickly.
For a more comprehensive list of suggestions, check out our free article, Natural Horse Care in the Heat. Do you have any tips and tricks you’d like to share with our community? Sound off in the ‘Comments’ section of this blog post.
Natural horse trainers–these suggestions also apply to you! Often we get so caught up in caring for our horses that we forget our bodies need the same care and nutrition we give our horses. Drink more water than you think you need, sample some new flavors of Gatorade, and remember your sunscreen!