Take a look at the picture below. We have one of those cool 110 gallon Rubbermaid water buckets and ours has an automatic filler with a float valve (like a toilet). The hose we’re using to keep this bucket full is looking compromised so I haven’t been leaving the water on all day in the heat. The picture below was taken after a hot day with the waterer turned off. You can see the water line near the top of the bucket. Those two horses of ours sure drink a lot of water! Just a reminder to make sure those buckets are full each day.
BTW, we love this bucket and the waterer. I’ll write about it someday and include some other pictures and tips on how to keep the water clean.
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. You’ll find it referenced in the comments of the photo at the link.
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.
According to our thermometer, we hit 104 degrees yesterday, in the shade. Everything is dying or dead. The trees are giving up and dropping their leaves, our lawn makes a crunching sound as we walk over it and our horses are draining the water bucket at a record pace. It’s hot and everything outside is miserable. I feel bad for our horses because they’re black and they stand out in the sun for a good portion of the day. I mentioned a few days ago that Moonshine has a patch of sunburn on her nose (thanks to the those who suggested in that thread that we apply waterproof baby sunscreen, SPF50). Despite the plentiful shade in our pasture, they still hang out in the sun. So I grabbed the hose and decided to spray them down for some temporary relief. One thing I’ve learned about horses in general is that they don’t like “spraying” sounds, sudden movements, cold water on their what-nots and in general, things they haven’t pre-approved. I started with Mikki’s ex-show horse, Valentine, since he’s had more experience with things like cold showers. I let them smell the hose first, carefully turned it on so it sprayed a little and let them explore it with their mouths and nostrils. It’s the horse-way. Valentine loved it and began taking a drink from the hose (see picture). In fact he took a 10 minute drink from the hose, during which time I got a good soaking myself. I then gently sprayed his back, neck and undercarriage. He loved it! Moonshine stood nearby, wary. She was curious about the squirty thing, curious enough I was able to bring the hose to her mouth. She took a drink and I rubbed her neck and told her how pretty she was, in an effort to relax her. I tried to spray her down but even on a gentle spray setting, she didn’t really like it.
So for the past few days this has been our routine. Around noon when we see the horses coming to the barn for a drink, we head out to fill up their water bucket and spray them down to cool them off. And since it’s watermelon harvest time, we bring them some chunks of watermelon as a treat.
Have you been doing anything special to get through the heat wave?
It’s been rather toasty in east Tennessee this past week. We hit almost 90 degrees Sunday. I notice our horses are shedding like a polar bear in Miami so we decided to give them a good brushing, followed by a cool shower.
Now we brush our horses in the winter but I have to admit, we haven’t showered them since the weather turned cold. We don’t have the luxury of a shower stall, I didn’t think the horses would stand still for a 30 degree soaking and we simply didn’t want to get wet ourselves when it was that cold outside. But yesterday was warm (hot?) so one at a time, we harnessed both horses and led them onto our grassy green lawn. Let me tell you, they were more than willing to come along. Poor things. They stare at our beautiful green lawn, full of yummy fescue and clover while standing in the dry dirt of our still-desolate pasture, eating old hay. Any chance to get to that yummy green grass is taken. Moonshine is patient with me as I put on her halter. I let her eat a couple of mouthfuls of grass before introducing the hose. What I do is use a nozzle with lots of holes in it so the water comes out in a gentle rain-like pattern, instead of a full-force, high pressure pattern. I turn the hose on slowly, let her get used to the sound, let her smell the nozzle and then gently introduce the water to her legs and then back. After a few minutes, she seems to forget about it and I’m free to soak her good. Months of dirt came running off. She sure looks purdy now. Mikki even combed her mane and tail. I then took her for a drying walk, brushed her again and let her back into the pasture where later she rolled in dirt to get rid of that yucky clean feeling. 🙂 Valentine was next. He also didn’t seem to mind and also later rolled in dirt. Oh well, at least they were clean for a few minutes!
By the way, some people call it a “horse bath” but to me “bath” refers to dunking in a tub. Our horses are too big for a tub.
Man, it sure is hot here in Tennessee. But I want to put to rest right here the myth that “dry heat” is somehow superior to humidity. I believe I am qualified to decide this issue because I currently live somewhere where it’s humid, and before this, lived most of my life in the “dry heat.” As I sit here in east Tennessee, my atomic clock/weather station says it is 97.1 F with 49% humidity. I was just outside filling the horses’ water bucket, and it’s darn hot. The humidity has been much higher, and it was very, very uncomfortable. However, 120 F, dry or not, is much worse, believe me. Besides, ask a Phoenician how dry it is in Phoenix right now. They have what’s called the “monsoon” season when the temp drops down to a balmy 110 or so, and the humidity hikes up to 50% or higher. Nasty.
Anyway, that’s not my real topic today. My real topic is heat and horses. My poor horses can’t fit in my air-conditioned house (don’t think I wouldn’t try if I thought they could), so they have to battle the heat in their own ways. Luckily, our pasture has a lot of wooded areas and is mostly surrounded by trees, so they have lots of shade. We make sure they always have lots of fresh clean water (which isn’t easy, given their habit of backwashing grassy water into the bucket all day). I cannot stress enough the importance of making sure your horse has plenty of water! Our horses sweat A LOT, so of course, they need to keep rehydrating. From how many times I refill their tub (plus the buckets of water they have in their stalls at night), I believe they are drinking about 30 gallons of water a day between the two of them. But that’s okay, they have unlimited refills here. And there’s always the pond if they feel like a dip. They’d have to be pretty desperate, though, because our pond would be better described as a rather deep mudhole. But they’ve been in it before and could again.