Horses and Heat

It’s been a hot few weeks in east Tennessee, with highs around 107 in the sun. Our two horses are consuming water at the rate of about 50 gallons a day. It’s way more than they normally drink. As I mentioned before, we’ve taken to showering the horses once or more a day to cool them off. Today I filled their drinking water barrel up to the top around noon but by three o-clock I noticed they hadn’t been by to drink any. In fact, I don’t remember seeing them all day (our pasture is hilly and the rear part of the property isn’t visible from the barn). Worried, I grabbed Mikki and we headed out to find our horses. We found them up at the old barn taking shelter in its shade. To our relief, they seemed fine and happily followed us down to the barn where we fed them cold watermelon and showered them with cool water.

Now I know there are wild horses roaming the hot desert in Arizona and figure they find a way to deal with the heat there. But today I worried about heat exhaustion. We’re not working or riding our horses in this heat but I wondered how working horses dealt with the heat. Despite global warming claims, 100 degree days are not new to this area so what did farm horses do?

There is a website I visit often that shows pictures of the old days. The website is called Shorpy, named after a child laborer in one of the pictures displayed on the site. Horses are often featured and today I came across the picture below. Apparently in days past, animal rights groups spent a lot of time pushing for ethical treatment of working horses. It’s not something we think much about today since there aren’t nearly as many but it was clearly important back then. Click the photo for more info from Shorpy but be forewarned, the link takes you directly to a page showing the photo of a horse that died on the street from heat exhaustion. The photo below was taken in 1911 in New York and is entitled “free shower baths for horses” from the G.G. Bain Collection of photos.

Free shower baths for horses

The photo of the horse that died from heat exhaustion is sad but was probably part of every day life in the city during hot summer days.

Photo courtesy of Shorpy – the 100 year old photo blog (link opens in a new window)

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