Hot Horse Hacks - Hoofbeats

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Hot Horse

Hacks I

t’s heading into late summer, and unless you happen to live in the tropics the ground is parched, everything is dusty and biting insects rule. Weeks of hot, dry weather can leave animals and people feeling a little jaded, particularly lone horses confined to a stable, yard or small paddock. With no company and not much to do, their day can be long and boring. Providing amusement is especially important for horses denied the pleasure of grazing with friends, standing together under a shady tree and swishing flies from each other with their tails. The following hacks provide ways to brighten every horse’s day, keeping them amused and perhaps a little cooler during those long hot hours between visits. There are some cheap and simple hacks for the all-important human carer, too.

February/March 2020 - Page 52

FLOATING TREATS: Float carrots and/or apples in the water trough. Provided the horse isn’t metabolically challenged and can tolerate some sugar, provide a little sweet relief on hot days, in the form of whole or cut up pieces of vegetable or fruit in its water trough. It may not take long to fish the pieces out, but playing in the water will be refreshing, and a little more of that all-important hydration will be provided. Best of all, the tasty treats will be a welcome diversion. Carrots that have gone a little soft, if they’re not refrigerated, will absorb water and firm up again, providing crunch and more water. Never use mushy or mouldy carrots, though; reserve these for the compost bin.

Add frozen apples or carrots to the water trough. The treats will have less smell while frozen and the horse may not detect them until it’s time for a drink, then … surprise! Alternatively, freeze chunks of allowable fruit or vegetable in an icecream container of water, and place the whole block in the trough. A big block of ice will slowly melt, releasing the treats hours later, while cooling the water in the trough at the same time. Horses much prefer cool water, to warm.

by Andie Wyatt

ICY POPS: Keep emergency (and edible) ice treatment in the freezer. There’s a horse on the property with a warm and/or puffy leg, and you don’t have a chemical ice-pack in the first aid kit? What do you do before ringing the vet (especially if the horse is also lame)? Start immediate treatment by grabbing a strip of icy pole blocks from a packet purchased from the supermarket. Bandage it around the hot spot for instant cooling, until you decide what further action needs to be taken. The same strip can be re-frozen and used again for this purpose. The rest can be enjoyed by you, and your horse, if he’s not sensitive to sugar (you can always suck out most of the sugary liquid, first).

CLEANING SADDLE PADS: Wash saddle pads in a large

bucket rather than using power in a washing machine or at a laundry. The combination of sweat and dust means that during summer saddle pads get mucky and sweaty more quickly. Turning them sweat-side up to dry in the sun after each ride, then giving the sweat marks a quick brush will remove a lot of the grey paste of sweat and dirt, making regular washing less necessary. When it starts to get whiffy, half-fill a large bucket with water and a squish of eucalyptus oil-based clothes detergent or wool wash. Available quite cheaply from supermarkets in ‘green’ brands advertised as more natural, eucalyptus wash has antibacterial and low-irritant qualities. Hand-wash the saddle pad, working the dirty areas. It’s a cooling job, much quicker than a machine cycle and uses far less water than washing in a top loader. Rinse twice to remove all trace of suds, pull to shape and dry in the shade, to limit fading.

SWEAT SCRAPERS: Got a spare sweat scraper? Most of us do, and they are excellent for mixing and stirring feeds, more efficient than a wooden spoon and easier on the wrist, too. Choose a colourful one from a grooming kit (often ones from gift packs are smaller, so they’ll fit into most buckets), and keep it for this purpose. Hanging it near the feed bins will keep it clean, out of the way, and not used for … sweat scraping. If you seriously have only one sweat scraper, don’t buy a new one. Wash it and reserve it for mixing feeds, and use a piece of baling twine to scrape water off the horse. Just stretch it tight and run it over the body; it achieves the same thing as a sweat scraper, but it’s softer and moulds to the horse’s shape. Brilliant! You’ll need a sponge or towel for the legs and face, of course.

HOT HEADS: Wear a cotton bandana under your helmet. The bandana will absorb most of the sweat that would otherwise soak into the helmet’s linings, keeping the helmet fresher for much longer. It will also help to keep your hair smoother and contained, reducing annoying flyaway stands and the stiffness and discomfort of ‘hat hair’. It can look quite snazzy too. While we’re on it, a neck bandana with an insulated neoprene centre will keep you cooler for two or three hours, while riding, grooming or doing chores around the property. Cooling the carotid artery at the side of the neck can cool the entire body, keeping the core temperature lower. Available at disposals stores or online, there are many different types, ranging from simple cotton with a polymer strip or ice crystals inside, to specialist neoprene models for outdoor workers in hot climates. Some require dipping in water to soak the polymer- or ice crystal centre, others are placed in the freezer to absorb and hold the ambient temperature. They will need regular washing; and if a wet neck isn’t desirable, go for a chemical variety, which requires twisting to activate the coolant inside. ALOE VERA GEL: Keep a tube of aloe vera gel handy in the stable, barn or tie-up area. It’s a soothing treatment for sunburn for horses and humans, and good for cuts and abrasions. With its anti-inflammatory properties it also soothes insect bites and reduces itching. For a cheap and totally natural alternative, grow aloe vera near the stable and break off a piece and squeeze, whenever you need it. It grows easily in full sun in the ground, or a pot, with pretty much no care.

POOL NOODLES: Appropriate a pool noodle to line the supports of metal saddle racks. Saddles spend most of the time sitting on these narrow supports, and dents can form, particularly in flocked saddles, which may alter the way the saddle sits and feels on the horse. With a serrated knife, cut two sections from the noodle long enough to fit along the sections of the rack where the saddle sits. Then carefully form a slit along the side of each section, down to the hollow core. Fit each piece around the horizontal saddle supports and voilà: no more dents.

Speaking of pools, an old pool skimmer is marvellous for skimming leaves and insects out of water troughs. They can be picked up at clearance centres, or perhaps it’s time for a new one at home? Attach a loop of hay twine through the screw hole in the handle and hang it on the barrow while you’re taking out the feeds.

SCRATCHING SPOT: Attach a couple of stiff-haired brushes or brooms to a post to provide a scratching spot. During mid- to late summer equines begin shedding their summer coat to make way for winter hair growth. It’s an itchy time, and scratching on a brush rather than post, branch or something sharper will help preserve rugs and prevent injury. Select a spot in the paddock on a rail or upright post, where the horse can safely position itself. A couple of dandy brushes or hard brooms will do the trick. Take care how they are attached, so there’s no danger of injury to the horse, or damage to rugs if the brushes happen to break or come off (polyurethane brushes are less likely to split or snap than wooden ones). Tying the brush or brushes firmly on with wire is a safer option than using nails. And for the sake of recycling, and size, using an old stable broom-head would be even better. February/March 2020 - Page 53


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