It is often very hard to determine which rugs to use and when in a climate such as ours in Australia, especially during those months of the year when the weather is unpredictable. However, which rugs to use and why during the hot summer months is something often overlooked, as many horses a left naked during this time. Rugging horses such as Friesians during the summer months is a must for a number of reasons including keeping them cool enough, and keeping them clean for upcoming competitions.
When it is a really hot day, it is a good idea to keep your stabled horses inside during the day, then, as the afternoon cools down, put them out in the paddock for the night, and generally leave them naked. For the horses that are paddocked all the time, or if the stabled horses are left out during the day, you can either leave them naked, or put white cotton sheets on them. The reasoning behind the white sheets is that they reflect the heat better than the black Friesian coats!
It is vitally important that your horse has shelter in his paddock so that he can get out of the sun into a cooler shaded area. Most places will have either shelters or tree cover in all of their paddocks.
Water is also very important – horses can get dehydrated very easily – they are made up of 70% water! As they are such large animals, dehydration is not an easy thing to fix – I have heard of severe cases of dehydration where the horse needed over 50 liters of water pumped into it to rehydrate the horse (both intravenously and orally)! So making sure our water troughs are always full is a top priority in the summer!
Having roughage such as grass or hay in the summer is also vital – the fibers from hay and grass are held in the horses hindgut to ferment, and this keeps the horse hydrated as water is retained in the hindgut when this fiber is held in there!
Having your horse on a correct diet is also important in the summer, as grass dries up and loses both water content and nutritional value. Making sure your horse has access to a salt block or adding vitamins and minerals to a hard feed is essential. On the days you are riding in the summer, and your horse sweats, it is a good idea to give them electrolytes either in a paste form (like worming or drenching a horse) or in their hard feed on the same day they have been sweating as this makes sure the horse stays hydrated and is not losing too much in its sweat. Electrolytes do not buildup in a horses' body – there is no reserve stores of them anywhere, so this is why it is important to give them every day the horse is sweating. A vitamin and mineral supplement in the feed every day is important for much the same reasons for many vitamins and minerals.
The most important thing that you as a horse owner can do, not only during the hot summer months, but throughout the year, is to check on your horse at least once a day, and keep an eye out for any changes – whether it be behavioral, your horse getting too hot / cold, weight changes and so on. You as the horse owner will know when anything is wrong or needs to be changed!