Anyone who’s untacked a horse after a summer afternoon ride has probably noticed dark sweat marks left behind by the saddle and girth. But why do horses sweat and how do you know what’s normal?
Keep reading to learn more about how horses use perspiration to stay cool in the heat and why a lack of sweat could indicate a significant problem.
Why Horses Sweat
Horses sweat to regulate their body temperature during exercise or hot weather. While sweating is just a single component of the complex system that helps keep your horse cool, problems sweating can have significant consequences for his health and wellbeing.
How Do Horses Sweat?
The presence of sweat on the skin doesn’t cool the horse down. It’s actually the evaporation of sweat that helps remove heat from the horse’s muscles.
When your horse exercises, his muscles produce a lot of heat absorbed by circulating blood and carried to the skin and lungs. Excess heat not controlled by breathing and radiant cooling will then start to raise the horse’s body temperature.
Part of the horse’s brain, the hypothalamus, senses the increase and signals the sweat glands to begin producing sweat. As the sweat accumulates on the skin, it begins to evaporate and remove heat to reduce your horse’s body temperature.
Sweating Isn’t Always Enough
Sometimes your horse may not be able to cool himself adequately after intense exercise in extreme heat. Humid weather can also prevent sweat from evaporating quickly enough to control body temperature.
Limit your horse’s risks of overheating by reducing exercise during hot, humid weather. Always offer your horse free-choice water to promote hydration and monitor his behavior to check how he handles heat.
Excessive Sweating In Horses
Generally, too much sweat is better than too little. But excessive sweating could be a sign that your horse is struggling to cool himself due to a lack of fitness or hot weather. Repeatedly hosing your horse with cold water and scraping it off can help him cool down faster.
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Anhidrosis In Horses
Anhidrosis is a dangerous condition that compromises your horse’s ability to sweat. Horses that suffer from anhidrosis will produce little sweat in situations where other horses may be drenched. This issue is common in hot and humid regions.
If your horse can’t sweat enough to cool himself, it is essential to manage him carefully to avoid overheating. These horses should have constant access to shade, fans, misters, and drinking water. Contact your veterinarian if you suspect that your horse has anhidrosis.
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Sweaty Horses and Electrolytes
Electrolytes are minerals found in body fluids that are vital for hydration and muscle function. These minerals are lost easily in sweat, and electrolyte supplements like Redmond Rock Mineral Salt may help support rehydration in horses who train in hot environments.
Horses Sweat To Stay Cool
Sweat marks after a hot summer ride are nothing to worry about. Horses sweat to keep themselves cool, and appropriate sweating is a sign of a healthy horse. Although too much sweat is better than too little, extra sweaty horses might benefit from electrolyte support.
Comment any questions below, and remember to spray and scrape the next time your horse needs extra help cooling off!