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Equine Care in Extreme Temperatures

Updated: May 4, 2021

With temperatures fluctuating it is important to know how to manage your horse when exercising in different weather. First thing you need to know is your TPR (temperature, pulse, and respiration).


  • Normal Temperature: 99-101.5 degrees Fahrenheit, Post exercise: 1-2 degree increase in temperature

  • Normal Pulse: 22-24 beats per minute, Post exercise: 80-100 beats per minute

  • Normal Respiration Rate: 10-24 breaths per min, Post exercise: 60-80 breaths per min

  • Capillary Refill Time: Firmly press against horse's gums and release, they should return to a pink color within 1-2 seconds

Management in Hot Weather

In elevated temperatures it is important to keep your horse healthy and hydrated to prevent heat stress, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.

Symptoms of Heat Stress: Stage 1

  • Dehydration

  • Dark colored urine

  • Elevated temperatures of 1-2 degrees

  • Dull expression/behavior

Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion: Stage 2

  • Temperature of 104-108 degrees Fahrenheit

  • Thickening of sweat while skin remains hot

  • Rapid shallow breathing

  • Capillary refill of several seconds or longer

Symptoms of Heat Stroke: Stage 3

  • Rapid breathing

  • Significantly fatigued

  • Rectal temp of 104 degrees Fahrenheit

  • Stomach pain

  • Lack of urination


  • Slow warm up, Slow cool down

  • Mixing 25% rubbing alcohol with 75% water and applying it to your horse with a sponge can help cool down the horse rapidly.

  • Cold hosing starting with the legs of the horse. It will coll them off more quickly if they are overheating

  • Balancing electrolytes while ensuring unrestricted water access; giving a working horse 1/2-1 tube of electrolytes once daily to facilitate drinking water

  • Ensure your horse has plenty of water available

  • Offer drinking at intervals after the exercise to help the horse remain hydrated

  • Scrape off water applied to the horse after 1-2 minutes and reapply cool water or water/alcohol mixture.

Just like in hot weather, lower temperatures can be just as stressful of a factor in equine health before and after exercise. Exercising in lower temperatures can cause many problems including hypothermia, dehydration and slips or falls on icy ground.

Management in Cold Weather:

  • Ensure your horse has a slow warm up (lots of walking, and walk/trot transitions)

  • Slowly cool your horse down (allow for 15-20 minutes of walking at the end of your ride)

  • Allowing your horse to drink warm water in the winter months will increase their water intake

  • Avoid places of ice when riding outside in the winter to prevent slips and falls

  • Provide protection from the weather. This can be a windbreak, barn, rain sheet and or blanket depending on how severe the weather is.

Symptoms of Hypothermia:

  • Shivering

  • Dehydration

  • Low core body temperature below 90 degrees Fahrenheit

  • Red colored urine

  • Lack of gastrointestinal motility

  • Cardiac, respiratory, and renal dysfunction

  • * Always call a veterinarian if you think your horse may be displaying symptoms of Hypothermia


  • Properly warming you horse up before exercise is crucial in all weather. However, in the cold weather your horse is breathing in cold air to their lungs, so long warm ups are essential.

  • Properly cooling down your horse in winter is important. Their winter coat is thicker and takes longer to dry. Apply a cooler blanket can help limit the drying time while keeping them warm.

  • Body clipping your horse, if you are excising often in the winter, can assist with helping your horse cool off more rapidly.

  • Keep a properly fitting blanket on hand for your horse. You never know when you might need one.

  • Check the weather outside to ensure the horses are staying warm and dry.

When to Call a Veterinarian:

  • When your horse is displaying any signs of the hypothermia

  • If your horse is showing severe long-lasting signs of dehydration, elevated body temperatures, and rapid breathing this may be sign of heat stroke. A veterinarian should be contacted.

  • If the capillary refill time takes 4 seconds or longer to return to normal color

  • If any of the symptoms persist even with treatment.

Written by Ashlynn Noble

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