Archive for June, 2011

Hot, Dry, Windy and Smoky (HDWS!!) – How to Help Your Horse Under These Conditions

Some might call it coddling, but I am pulling out all the stops to help my horses get through some of the nastiest summer weather conditions they have ever been exposed to.

In spite of normally idyllic conditions, here in New Mexico (as in many Southwest U.S. areas this summer), we haven’t had a drop of rain in I don’t know how long, and wildfires are literally gobbling up the countryside all around us.

The nearest wildfire, just 30 miles away in the Sangre de Christo Mountains. It broke out yesterday.

We have had several days with zero percent humidity, and the winds are raging with gusts up to 50 mph. So smoke fills the air, and has for a few weeks now, causing sneezing, coughing, runny eyes and bad tempers. At least we can get ourselves and our small animals out of it by coming indoors. But our horses are out in it, for better or worse. 

Unlike the 500 acres they had in Texas — with lots of cover, windbreaks, and a steady creek, my horses are restricted to about eight acres here in NM. Acres made up of juniper and sage … and red dirt and sand that the wind flings mercilessly in their eyes when it’s blowing like it is now. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t go back because I can no longer take the extreme heat and humidity of Texas. And I don’t think the horses would either. But everything’s a trade-off, so helping them through such harsh conditions as we are experiencing now in N.M.  is at the top of my priority list these days.

Our New Mexico "pasture." Pretty, but very arid, and obviously this picture was not taken during the current conditions!

Here’s what I do for HDWS (hot, dry, windy & smoky).  And it’s paying off. My horses are happy and in great condition. So if you’re distressed about summer conditions where you live (even if you don’t have all four of HDWS), you might want to try some of these tips yourself.

1. Feed the horses behind shelter from the wind. Mine have a run-in barn — smaller than the one in Texas but it’s a great wind block. Normally I like to spread my horses’ hay out and about in their eight acres, so that they have to move a lot to find it. But when conditions are as they are now, the more protection I can provide, the better.

2. Keep fly masks on 24/7 whenever it’s windy, so that dirt and sand can’t blow in your horses’ eyes and irritate, or worse, cause infection or scar a cornea.

3. Amp up nutrition. I use electrolytes (to keep them drinking plenty of water), anti-oxidants, bran (if I feel the dry conditions are starting to plug them up), free-choice minerals from Advanced Biological Concepts, and probiotics, to name just a few. My personal choice for super foods for my horses are the algae-based products sold through Simplexity Health Products, but whatever products you like and have had good luck with, be sure you plug them in NOW. And I recommend a good, wet, sloppy mash at least once a day (whatever the ingredients).

4. Make sure you provide a salt block and a mineral block. Always. That’s just basic!

5. If flies and mosquitos are a problem (which they usually are NOT when the wind is blowing gale force), definitely find a good fly spray, masks and/or sheets to help your horses out. The last thing they need is huge itchy, scratchy welts on top of HDWS!

6. RINSE OR SOAK YOUR HORSES’ HAY! I think this is one of the most important things you can do, as wet hay gives your horses a cool, damp breath every time they inhale while chewing. When things are at their worst, as they are right now, I spread about half my horses’ hay rations out in a long, shallow trough (with drainage) and distribute the rest among small-holed hay nets, which I can hang under shelter or behind wind blocks. I hose everything down liberally, until it’s dripping wet. And, not surprisingly, lots of the water I see draining out from the hay is quite dirty — no doubt dust from dirt or smoke particles that have lodged in my hay stores. Whatever it is, I’m glad it’s out. And my horses seem to love the wet hay too.

Small-holed hay net (you can find these online). Picture this dripping wet.

7. Hose down your horses whenever it’s too hot, their fly spray has gunked up on them, or the dust has made them into a dirt ball. Heck, hose yourself down at the same time! Spray the hose up in the air so it falls on them like rain — they love that!! (Well, some do….)

8. Oh, and don’t work your horse too much under these conditions. Some of the smoke particulates are microscopic and can lodge in the lungs, causing damage. And some horses have weaker lungs than others — like one of my mares — so do them a favor and take every precaution. This point I got from an equine veterinarian.

All I can say, as we get through this trying time, is:  God bless the firefighters! And, please God, bring us rain!


I know I have a few followers in the UK, so as I write this post I am thinking:  “Egads! What must my buddies in England be thinking about the horrible conditions over here!!!???” I know this post isn’t helpful for you UK horse lovers, what with your gorgeous green and lush countryside, but, even though we are experiencing just AWFUL conditions here right now, I KNOW you would love New Mexico. In fact I have family from Bath arriving any day now, and this is their favorite place to be, ever. They would all move here in a heartbeat if they could. So don’t give up on us! And thanks for reading my posts! Happy summer to you!

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