Preparing You and Your Horse for Summer
Summer in Florida is not for the faint of heart. While other states deal with spring tornadoes, and winter blizzards, summer is usually a time of enjoyment and nice weather. In Florida summer means the beach, backyard barbeques, and vacation but it also brings extreme heat, insects, and potentially dangerous storms. Being prepared for the not so fun part of summer will help you relax and enjoy the best parts. We have put together a list of things you can do and watch for to help you and your horse get the most out of this summer.
In the summer we all think about water, at the beach, at the lake, a shower after a hot and dirty day. We don’t always think about the lack of water, but water is the life source of all living things. Everything needs it to survive, so make sure your horse has an unending supply of clean water he can get to. Watch for signs of dehydration. If you are not sure if your horse is dehydrated, do the elastic test. Pull the skin on your horse’s neck above the shoulders, it should snap back immediately but if it forms a wrinkle and takes 1 to 5 seconds for the wrinkle to disappear then your horse is dehydrated. Others signs of dehydration are confusion, difficulty focusing or completing task, stiffness, gums and inside of mouth getting pale, temperature, lethargy, dry mouth and strong-smelling urine.
Dehydration can cause serious medical conditions.
To help avoid dehydration:
Don’t work in the heat of the day, try early morning, or put those extra hours of daylight in the evening to good use.
Find shade, even if you don’t have a covered arena, find a shady spot to work.
Keep your training time shorter.
Try adding Gatorade style packs in your horse’s water or adding electrolytes to their feed during the summer to help replenish what they lose during training or work. Don’t forget to keep yourself hydrated! People often don’t realize it is happening until you pass the point of dehydration.
When the thunder rolls in Florida make sure your horse has cover. Most local Floridians tend not to think about lightning until it knocks out our power or hits something. We are desensitized to it but seriously it is no joke, and the USDA says it accounts for 80 percent of all accidental deaths in livestock making it the number one killer of all livestock. At the ranch we make sure horses are put up when we see the sky start to darken and every one of our buildings have lightning systems installed for the safety of our staff and animals.
Not everyone has a staff that is on premises looking out for the horses all day but there are things you can do to help protect your horses from lightning.
Try turning your horse out at night in the summer when storms usually have wrapped up for the day or you are available to put them up if the weather gets bad.
Make sure your horses have a covered shelter to get under during a storm and install a lightning system on the shelter.
You can even install lightning systems in their favorite trees they shelter under.
We’ve all done the last-minute sprint to grab our livestock when the weather gets nasty. Shoulders hunched over, face getting pelted, and you jump every time you hear the nearby crack. Just don’t! Your horse’s life is important but if it has gotten that bad don’t run into the storm. Keep an eye on the weather, and act ahead of time if you think it’s going to get ugly.
Afternoon thunderstorms aren’t the only kind of weather concern in Florida during the summer. More than 41 percent of hurricanes that make landfall in the U.S. make landfall somewhere in Florida. Thankfully, most storm systems bring in a few days of windy weather and localized flooding but you have the occasional one that just has its heart set on crossing. Those are usually the ones that cause severe damage. By the time a path is called you may not be able to get the supplies you need so having a plan before a hurricane hits allows you to be more prepared and pick things up when you can without rushing at the last minute.
Things to consider for your plan:
Water. If you don’t have a source of water such as a pond or lake and your water relies on electricity, grab some cans or barrels, and fill them up. You may be without for several days, and your horse will need it.
Feed and Hay. You may not be able to get to a feed store after a storm so find a dry place to store a few extra days of hay and feed.
Identification. Have at least two forms of identification on your horse. Good forms of identification to use are a microchip, a tattoo, a brand, luggage type tags in the tail, or secured to the halter, a fetlock tag, even hair color (you can clip it out afterwards).
Health papers. Have your registration information, vaccines, and health papers in a place where you can grab them if you need to evacuate with your horse or claim your horse after a storm.
A place to go. If you must evacuate, have a list of places you can go that take horses or fiends you can haul to.
Stall, pen, or corral. You may have to put your horse up after the storm if you have fence down. Have a plan of where you can do that.
A Safe Area. If the place you plan to put your horse during a storm is unsafe, in other words it may trap them in an area where they cannot escape from a tree falling, a building coming down, or debris flying at them, consider leaving them out. Horses are born with a strong set of survival skills, knowing how to run from danger and move away from things coming at them is deep rooted. If an area is unsafe during a storm, block them from being able to get into that area rather than risk them getting trapped in it. Pick up debris around the pasture and barn that could become dangerous in high winds.
Medical Supplies. Have them on hand in case you have to bandage wounds or injuries after the storm.
We spend the end of spring putting our summer plan together which includes making sure we have everything we need in case of a hurricane and updating our hurricane plan. Making sure all barn fans are running, fly spray systems are functioning properly, and lightning rods are working. We hope that we have given you some food for thought, encouraged you to prepare ahead, and watch for potential danger so that your summer is full of trail rides, horse shows, back yard barbeques, lots of fun and minimal worry! From all of us here at Spring Lane stay safe and cool this summer!