Commercial intro read by Christine: This episode of the Three Things podcast is brought to you by Farnam.
Laurie: Welcome to the June episode of Three Things from EQUUS magazine, the podcast packed with practical horse-keeping tips for the month ahead. I’m EQUUS editor, Laurie Prinz
Christine: And I’m managing editor, Christine Barakat. Summer’s here. Not officially, but as far as life around the barn is concerned, we are in full summer mode. The horses are slick, the smell of fly spray is in the air, and we’re all looking for ways to stay cool.
Laurie: Staying cool is actually the focus of our first horse-keeping tip, which tackles a long-standing myth. For years, it was thought that putting cold water directly on a hot horse would cause muscle cramping or even laminitis.
I’m not sure how that belief became so entrenched, but research done in conjunction with the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta thoroughly disapproved it. The researchers found that not only is putting cold water on a hot horse safe, but it’s a crucial step in preventing heat stress and heat stroke, which can be deadly.
Christine: Anytime your horse is hot and sweaty in the summer, whether it’s after a ride or just standing in his field, sponge or hose him thoroughly with cold water then scrape the excess off and get him to a shady area—ideally one with a bit of a breeze. You can also use water proactively by wetting a horse down before you begin to ride. As he works, the water will evaporate, serving the same cooling function as sweat but without the metabolic cost or physiologic stress of actually sweating. You can also stop midway through a ride on a warm day to re-wet the horse.
I’ll also mention that it’s okay to let a hot horse drink water. The idea that letting a hot horse drink can somehow cause colic or laminitis is another harmful myth that research has disproven.
Laurie: I’d recommend everyone review the signs of heat stress and heat exhaustion before we get into the dog days of summer. A horse can move into either of these very dangerous states quickly in hot humid conditions. You’ll find a great article on this topic at equusmagazine.com. We posted it right on her homepage so it’s easy to find.
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Christine: Next I want to share one of my favorite trail-riding tips. It was initially shared with me years ago by EQUUS founding medical editor, Matthew Mackay Smith, who in addition to being an eminent veterinary surgeon was also an avid endurance rider and an extremely practical person. It’s an amazingly simple tip that solves a frustrating summer trail problem.
So the problem we’re solving is that thing that happens when you’re riding down an overgrown trail and you encounter a low overhanging branch or branch that grows out into the trail space. Pushing past these branches isn’t difficult but once you do pass they’ll snap back and strike the horse and rider following it. Anyone who has gotten a face full of tree on a trail ride knows this problem all too well. But here’s how you can keep that from happening:
As you approach a branch that reaches out onto the trail, put your reins in one hand to free up the other. Then, when you get to the branch, grab it and lift it straight up and over your head. As you walk under it, don’t pull it to the side, but lift it straight up above you as your horse keeps walking forward. Once you pass under the branch, do not hold onto it, let it go immediately, so it drops down behind you toward your horse’s hindquarters as he continues down the trail. The goal is to move the branch up and down rather than forward and backward so it doesn’t hit the rider behind you. If everybody on the ride uses the same method, no horse will be subjected to a flying branch to the face, and everybody will have a nicer ride.
Laurie: That’s a simple but effective solution, a very Matthew Mackay Smith solution. I can almost imagine him giving you this advice complete with a full physical demonstration in the office hallway.
Christine: That’s pretty much exactly how it happened.
Laurie: The final topic we’d like to touch on in this episode is fly mask care. You may not think a fly mask requires much upkeep, but there are a few things you need to do to keep this simple gear from doing more harm than good.
First of all, keep it clean. A fly mask crusted with dirt, mud or oils from your horse’s coat will only attract more flies or irritate the skin or the eyes. Masks can be washed in a bucket of water with a tiny bit of soap, or even run through a washing machine and double rinsed. It’s helpful to have two or three fly masks on hand so your horse can wear a fresh one while the others are being cleaned.
Also make sure your masks are in good repair. Missing or dirt-clogged fasteners will result in a mask on the ground rather than on your horse, and frayed or unraveling mesh proposes irritation or injury hazards, particularly if it’s around the eye area. It’s not unusual to go through more than one mask in a season. So be prepared to replace these hard-used and important items.
Christine: I feel like fly masks are simple enough that they should last forever, but they’re in use almost 24/7 during the summer months, so it’s pretty remarkable when one does make it through a whole season.
Well, that wraps up our three tips for June. I hope everybody has a great start to their summer.
Laurie: And we’ll meet you back here in July for 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.
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