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Reducing Heat Stress in Horses

When a horse is deriving energy from its food only, approximately 20% is used while the rest creates heat, which must be removed. This is not an issue at normal ambient temperatures but can be a serious problem with moderate levels of exercise in a hot and humid environment.

As summer temperatures increase the horse may absorb extra energy if the environmental temperature is greater than body temperature. Heat removal is accomplished by the horse sweating, and to a lesser extent through evaporation in the respiratory tract. Sweat losses can be substantial and include water and electrolytes. Equine sweat, unlike human sweat, has a higher concentration of electrolytes than blood plasma. Sensors in the horse’s body do not detect a decrease in water content of plasma and sweating does not stimulate the thirst mechanism as in humans. 

Feeding to replace critical electrolytes lost in sweat, like Pegasus Hydra Guard Electrolytes by Otter Co-op, is part of the answer for a combination of nutrition, exercise and management.

Written for the Rusty Spur Tack & Feed and Otter Co-op Feeds by Ken Wilkinson, Equine Nutritionist