Commercial intro read by Christine: This episode of the 3 Things podcast is brought to you by Farnam.
Laurie: Welcome to the July episode of 3 Things from EQUUS, the podcast where we share horsekeeping tips for the month ahead. I’m EQUUS editor, Laurie Prinz.
Christine: And I’m managing editor, Christine Barakat. If you were to ask me what the best season to care for horses is, I don’t think I’d say summer.
Horses aren’t really built for the heat and frankly, neither am I. But I do know there are some people who love this time of year at the barn, and I hope they’re wearing sunscreen and enjoying these dog days.
Laurie: Do you know why they call them dog days?
Christine: I have no idea
Laurie: It has to do with astrology and the position of the sun relative to the constellation known as Canis Major.
Christine: So nothing to do with actual dogs?
Christine: Well, that’s a little disappointing, but now I can say I’ve learned something today. And speaking of learning something, I want to start off the horsekeeping portion of our program by sharing something that I learned years ago when I was assigned a story about electrolytes.
I had thought that electrolytes, the supplements that replenish the vital minerals like sodium calcium and potassium that are lost through sweat, were something that only very athletic horses needed, like those who work up a sweat on the jumper course or something like that. It turns out, however, that any horse who sweats a lot in the summer months can benefit from having those minerals replaced. A lesson horse, for example, or one who works up a sweat during a trailer ride.
It doesn’t matter how a horse’s electrolyte levels become unbalanced or depleted. The results are still the same: A slowing of their critical cellular functions. Fortunately, there are a ton of eletrolyte products available, from powders that go on feed or in water buckets to gels you squirt directly in their mouth.
If you think your horse could benefit from one of these, just follow the directions on the product and consult with your veterinarian if you’re not sure about something.
Laurie: I remember that story. It’s an in-depth exploration of the topic with lots of good practical information. We’ve put it up on our homepage on our website, equusmagazine.com if people would like to read it.
The next thing we want to talk about today has to do with hay and specifically where you store it. Whether it’s a loft, a shed or another structure, chances are that space is pretty empty right now. So take advantage of that and give it a good cleaning and inspection in preparation for filling it again.
Christine: The first step in this process is to remove all the remaining bales from the space and sweep the loose hay on the floor to one side. Don’t get rid of that loose hay though. You’re going to need it. Inspect the integrity of the floor and look for evidence of rodents as you work. You may need to formulate a pest control plan.
Also look for signs of water on the floor, like dark spots or warping, which can indicate a leaky roof, which can lead to moldy and wasted hay.
Laurie: A great tip for finding defects in the roof is to shut the doors to the space to make it as dark as possible. Then look straight up at the ceiling. If you can see pinholes of light coming through, you’ve got issues with the roof. This works best at high noon. And if you suspect a roof needs repairs, be safe and call a professional.
Christine: After you’ve inspected the floor, sweep the loose hay back over. Your impulse may be to sweep the floor clean for bringing in a new load of hay, but it’s actually better to leave a layer of small pieces of hay under the stacked bales.
This allows for air circulation, which dissipates moisture and heat. Stacking hay on wooden pallets is another option, but the space underneath the pallets can be inviting to rodents and other vermin.
Laurie: When the space is ready, you can put the older bales back in. Just be sure to put them close to the door, however, and keep them there even when your new shipment of hay comes in. Hay loses nutrients over time, and it’s smart to feed the oldest bales first.
Christine: One more thing to consider is if the floor of your hay storage space is dirt or concrete, it can wick moisture up into the stored hay. In that case, you’ll want to put down a tarp to act as a barrier and then put pallets on top of that to allow air to circulate beneath the bales.
If the walls of your hay storage space are cinder block or concrete, you’ll have the same moisture-wicking issue. In that case, though, all you need to do is make sure your stacked hay doesn’t touch the walls.
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Laurie: The last item we’ll cover today is a topic you may not associate with summer, but you really need to keep in mind to keep your horse safe. That’s red maple poisoning.
You’re probably aware that toxins and wilted red maple leaves damage the hemoglobin in horses’ red blood cells, making them unable to carry oxygen. Waste from the damaged blood cells overwhelms the kidneys, causing them to fail. Red maple poisoning is fatal in about 60 to 70 percent of cases.
Most people associate red maple poisoning with autumn when leaves change color and fall. Leaves are toxic then, but they also pose a risk to horses during the summer when storms can blow branches off of trees and the leaves on those branches wilt and dry. These leaves can remain toxic for several weeks. It’s not hard to imagine a curious horse grabbing a mouthful. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take much to lead to a tragedy.
Christine: I don’t think many people realize the danger of wilted red maple leaves in the summer, but it’s a really good idea to walk your property after each storm this time of year, looking for downed branches.
Laurie: Or just take a horse out and ride the property!
Christine: Taking a horse would make the job more efficient and probably more fun.
Laurie: That wraps up this episode of 3 Things. We hope we’ve given you some information you can use.
Christine: We’ll be back here in August with more tips.
Commercial outro, read by Christine: This episode of the 3 Things podcast was brought to you by Farnam.
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Christine Barakat: Help spread the word about the EQUUS 3 Things podcast, head over to iTunes to subscribe rate, and leave us a review. The EQUUS 3 Things podcast is a production of the Equine Podcast Network, an entity of the Equine Network.