Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Beating the Dog Days

Ahh, the dog days of August. They've finally descended down upon New York City like a hazy, shimmering (smoggy) cloud. It had been hard to know whether summer had even come at all given June and July's relentlessly water logged weeks, but now, with temperatures forecast into the high 80s all this week, there's no denying it.

The tail end of summer, even with its attendant humidity and fly control issues, is still a great time to be at the barn. I can't even begin to count the lazy summer afternoons I've spent watching horses graze, or the training sessions timed just so as to catch that sweet spot as a hot day fades into a cool, breezy evening.

With the return of summer's heat, though, do come additional horsecare caveats to be kept in mind. Trailering horses to and from shows and trail dates is already strenuous enough without the added burden of potentially high heat and humidity within and outside the trailer. It is important that trailering stints are timed so as to allow a horse adequate rest and recuperation when temperatures climb, and that water is offered as often as possible.

A horse drinks, on average, 5-6 gallons of water a day, without the attendant stress of higher temperatures, and water loss due to increased sweating. Some horses are particularly finicky about drinking on the road or from foreign water sources, so dehydration can set in rapidly and last for several days. Trailering is also akin in terms of energy expenditure to moving at a walk for the same period of time, as the horse works inside to balance himself. He may therefore be inclined to drink more due to this exertion. As you travel with your animal, make sure to offer water at regular intervals (The AHSA recommends every four hours or so), and consider flavoring the water with sports drink powder or some of the readily available flavor additives currently marketed for equine athletes.

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