Summer horse care seems like breeze. A beautiful summer day and your horse is outside. No worries, right? Maybe not. Horses can overheat easily, and if left in a field without shade they are subject to a variety of sun-related problems.
Horses with sparse hair and light colored hair and skin are more likely to get sun related diseases. Sunburn is as uncomfortable for horses as it is for you, and it can lead to skin cancers. You could try slathering your horse with sunscreen or outfitting him in a sun suit, but I think you can imagine how successful either of those choices might be. Better to provide a barn or large shade tree.
Another potentially serious skin condition is photosensitization. It looks like sunburn but is usually caused by a reaction to something that the horse has eaten. The skin problem doesn’t appear until the horse is exposed to sunlight. The skin can become crusty then die and slough away. Certain plants (St. John’s wort, buckwheat, burr trefoil, perennial rye grass) and commonly used drugs (the antibiotics trimethoprim sulfa and tetracyclines) can cause photosensitization.
Removing the horse from the sun is mandatory. Diet changes to eliminate any legume forage (grazing or hay) are essential. Recovery can be slow if the damage is extensive. Care includes bathing and cleaning the affected areas with topical antibiotic or antiseptic ointments.
Access to clean, fresh water is important at all times, but critical in very hot weather. Like us, horses control their temperature through sweating. But sweating leads to dehydration if the water and minerals aren’t replaced. So provide plenty of fresh, clean water.
You can also turn horses out only in the evening, keeping them stabled in the day during summer. This minimizes their exposure to blazing sun and flies. Of course, this assumes that your stable is cool and well ventilated. If you find it insufferably hot inside the stable, chances are your horse will, too.
You know how important it is to take care of your skin in the summer sun. The same is true for your horse!