Caring for horses in hot weather

Are you looking forward to the summer season? As you prepare to spend glorious sunsets in the saddle and bask in the warmth of sunshine at the stables, it’s time consider how your horse handles hot weather. 

To help you find exactly what you may need to support your horse during the hot weather, here’s a list of all the products shared as part of this article. But keep reading to find out how each one could benefit your horse and what to consider… 

  1. Food-safe water bucket
  2. Sponge
  3. Sweat scraper
  4. Sunscreen for horses
  5. Antibacterial sunblock
  6. Fly spray
  7. Fly-repelling creams
  8. Fly masks
  9. Fly rugs
  10. Clipping

Helping your horse cope during a heatwave

Horses who get too hot are at risk of heat-related illnesses, including:

  • Dehydration.
  • Heatstroke.
  • Heat exhaustion.
  • Colic.

Some symptoms of heat-related illness in horses:

  • Dull eyes.
  • Dark urine.
  • Darker gums (red rather than pink).
  • Lethargy.
  • Reduced performance.
  • Flaring nostrils.
  • Fast, shallow breathing.
  • Decreased appetite.
  • Muscle spasms.
  • Irregular heartbeat.
  • Bizarre behaviour after exercise.

Please contact your vet immediately if your horse seems to be suffering from a heat-related illness.

While waiting for the vet, if it’s safe to do so:

  • Move your horse to a cool, shaded area.
  • Allow access to fresh drinking water.
  • Apply cold water to their body with a sponge.

Luckily, there are many ways to care for your horse in the heat… 

Watch their water intake

In ‘normal’ weather conditions, when it’s not too hot and not too cold, your horse might drink around four buckets’ worth of water a day. When the weather is warm, your horse is likely to drink as many as seven buckets of water every day! 

Sometimes, it can be a struggle to encourage our horses to drink – even when temperatures soar and it’s scorching hot. 

Here are some handy hints to help boost your horse’s water intake in the heat:

  • An additional food-safe water bucket in their stable and field.
  • Refresh their water supply at least once every day.
  • Add a little apple juice to their water bucket (check with your vet before trying this if your horse has a health condition like laminitis or Equine Metabolic Syndrome [EMS]).
  • Soak hay for a short time in cold water and let it drain before feeding it to them (always introduce new food gradually – ask your vet for advice before introducing soaked hay in hot weather). 

Change their exercise routine

Exercise your horse (whether you ride, drive, lunge, loose school, walk in-hand, etc.) during the fresh, early mornings or in the coolness of the evening, instead of opting to exercise during the heat of the day. 

By avoiding the hottest times of day when exercising your horse, you’ll be drastically lowering the risk of them suffering heatstroke or heat exhaustion.  

Keep their stable cool

Standing in a warm stable won’t be the ideal environment for our horses in the heat. However, many of us choose to stable our horses during the day to keep them safe from the sun’s strength during the hottest hours.

Tips to keep your horse’s stable cool:

  • Safely fix a fan (that has been safety checked) in a suitable place, out of reach, directing it into your horse’s stable.
  • Make sure there’s plenty of air flowing through the stable (e.g. if your equine friend is stabled in a barn, keep the main barn doors open).
  • Insulate it! We tend to associate insulation with winter weather, but by ensuring your horse’s stable is well insulated, it’ll stay cooler during the summer, too!

Create shaded areas in their field

Many horses spend their summers in the field for 24 hours a day. It may also be impractical for some horses to stay in their stable during the hottest times of the day.

The ideal shade or shelter for your horse should be:

  • Open plan – your horse, and other horses they’re turned out with, should be able to enter and leave the shelter or shaded area without getting stuck in a corner.
  • Big enough to accommodate all horses using the field – with space to spare, which will prevent arguments about territory.
  • Well ventilated – if you’ve chosen to use a field shelter, it should have plenty of airflow to prevent it from becoming too hot in the summer sun.
  • Clean – by keeping field shelters and shaded areas free from droppings, you’ll also be limiting the number of flies!
  • Safe – above all, any field shelter or shaded area of a field should be safe for your horse to enjoy. 

Remember: Some field shelters will require planning permission to build, whereas mobile field shelters (that can be moved) tend not to need planning permission. You can find out more about the topic by visiting this article.

Give them a cool shower

If bathing your horse for the purpose of keeping them cool, shampoo isn’t necessary – all you’ll need is either a sponge and bucket of cool water, or a hose pipe (with a nozzle that allows for a soft spray).

There’s some debate about the effectiveness of using a sweat scraper after bathing a horse during hot weather. According to this vet-approved article, your equine friend will stay cooler if you leave water on their coat when returning them to their stable. 

Please note: Horses who are irritated by water droplets running from their coat (which can mimic the sensation of flies) may prefer you to gently use a sweat scraper to remove any excess, dripping water from their girth area.  

Apply horse-friendly suncream

Horses who have pink skin on their muzzles, as well as those with pale-coloured coats (cremello coats, for example), are at greater risk of severe sunburn. Although, any horse who spends time in the sun will be susceptible to sunburn – so, it’s important to protect all of our horses from the risks of sun exposure. 

Suncream designed for humans may not be the best choice for your horse. Human sunscreen won’t necessarily be safe for your horse’s skin (especially if they’re sensitive) and sun protection made for people won’t last as long as suncream specifically created for horses. 

Choosing the right sunscreen for horses can be a tricky task, however, as there’s an enormous selection of horse-friendly sun protection available (from antibacterial sunblock to soothing sun relief)!

Check out the reviews of a horse-friendly suncream before investing, and never be afraid to contact the manufacturer if you have questions.

Alternatively, you can always ask your vet for advice if you’re unsure about the most suitable suncream for your horse. 

Protect them from flies

Flies are a nuisance to our horses. Although not every species of fly can bite, they’re all able to annoy our equine friends!

Keeping flies away from your horse can help to lessen their discomfort in the heat. Plus, keeping horrible horseflies away can also prevent your horse from getting distressed and overheating through their attempts to escape the irritation.

While we can’t eliminate the problems caused by flies, we can do our best to protect our horses from them…

For an in-depth guide about battling flies during the summer season, take a look at our article The fight against the horse’s worst enemy: the fly. 


Fly spray

Thankfully, there’s an amazing choice of fly sprays available!

If you’re unsure which fly spray to choose, think about your horse’s skin sensitivity or any allergies they might have, and whether your horse likes a spray. 

Some horses dislike the sound or sensation of fly spray. If your horse doesn’t like fly spray, why not try fly-repelling creams, lotions, gels, shampoos, or wipes instead? 

Fly mask

They might make your horse look like an alien, though most fly masks offer UV protection for your equine’s eyes, as well as being a great barrier to prevent flies from irritating your horse’s face.

Fly masks are available with or without ear and nose coverings – allowing you to customise your horse’s fly protection!



Fly rugs

Also known as ‘fly sheets’, fly rugs are fantastic for protecting your pony from pesky flies by covering a large portion of their body with a lightweight, breathable mesh.
You can find fly rugs designed for your horse to wear while you’re riding, too.

Clip them

Clipping your horse in the summer may seem strange, though horses with thicker coats (like those who suffer with Cushing’s disease) who can’t moult easily will benefit from having their coat clipped to keep cool!

If you’re not sure whether clipping your horse during the summer is right for them, please speak to your vet for advice.

So, as it turns out, there are many ways to care for your horse in hot weather and protect them from heat-related illnesses! Perhaps the most important care factors include increasing your horse’s water intake, adjusting their exercise routine, keeping their stable cool, and protecting them from flies while the weather’s hot.

Don’t forget to check out our top 10 tried-and-tested tips from horse owners, to help keep your horse cool this summer!

This webpage uses affiliate links for VioVet. This means that if you buy something through these links, Animal Friends may earn a commission.


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