Do Horses Sweat? All About Equine Perspiration


Intro 

Some people may wonder if horses sweat, and the answer is yes! Horses, like other animals, have sweat glands. Like humans, horses sweat for thermoregulation. Horses that are non-sweaters have a rare condition called anhidrosis, which is when a horse’s sweat glands stop making as much or any sweat. This condition should be taken seriously, as they can not dissipate heat produced from their muscles during work or cool their body down in hot weather.

Horse in Sun

Is it Normal for a Horse to Sweat? 

As mentioned above, horses have sweat glands and need to sweat for thermoregulation just like humans do. Therefore, it is very normal for a horse to sweat. In fact, horses in hot weather, high humidity, or doing intense exercise should sweat. 

How Do Horses Sweat?

Horses expel heat from their body through their skin and by breathing. If this is not enough, the horse’s sweat glands will pump out the heat via sweating. A horse’s sweat contains water as well as electrolytes. When they sweat out electrolytes, their sweat can become foam or a white lather on their body. This will be seen between their hind legs and where the reins come into contact with their necks when ridden. 

The most common areas in which a horse will sweat are under any tack (such as your saddle and bridle), their chest, neck, and between their hind legs. Horses that sweat on their heads, flanks, and top of their rump are signs that the horse needs help in cooling down, as they are at risk for heat stress.

Why is Sweating Important for Horses?

Sweating in horses is very important. Horses, like humans, sweat for thermoregulation in hot weather or from intense exercise. It allows the body to naturally cool itself down, expelling excess heat from the muscles. Horses who do not sweat, or have trouble sweating, can have health problems that will need veterinary intervention and possible medication to help create healthy sweat glands. 

How to Keep Your Horse At a Comfortable Temperature

How to Cool Down After a Ride

Getting a horse’s internal body temperature down after riding is essential. Cooling a horse down by hosing them off with cold water is very helpful. Focusing on areas that have prominent blood vessels, such as the head, neck, back, and rib areas, will aid in this. If obtaining a lot of water is difficult, sponging the horse down with cold water can be just as effective. It is advised to avoid using sheets or blankets in an attempt to cool your horse down, as this will result in blocking the water from evaporating from the horse’s skin.

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How to Help Your Horse in the Heat

There are a few ways you can help keep your horse comfortable in hot temperatures. Providing shade, airflow (such as fans), and access to clean drinking water during hot weather is the best place to start. Avoid exercises such as riding in a combined hot air temperature with relative humidity (over 150). 

Hosing Down Horse

What Tack Items/Horse Accessories are Recommended for Horses in the Heat? 

It is not recommended to use additional products to keep your horse cool or help cool it down. Blanketing horses in the heat will block water evaporation. While some horses need fly sheets in the hot summer months, these come in different varieties of denseness. Some fly sheets are heavier, while others are lighter based on the mesh. Knowing your horse and keeping an eye on its sweating ability will help determine if its sheet is blocking any sweat. This also goes for any boots or leg equipment put on in the hot weather.

When Does My Horse Need Electrolytes?

Horses can use electrolytes if they have a minimal case of anhidrosis. Other times in which you can give your horse electrolytes are when they are under unusual stress, in extra-difficult working conditions (high heat plus humidity), being worked harder or longer than usual, and when they sweat profusely. 

Electrolytes can be fed either in a powder or paste form. The powder can be added to either your horse’s feed or water. Be sure that, if you put it in your horse’s grain, they are going to finish their entire ration, and/or if in their water that they will end up drinking all of it. Another simple and easy way to keep your horse hydrated is by having a salt lick in their stall at all times. 

If using electrolytes in a paste form, there are easy, ready-to-use disposable dose syringes. While they are typically more expensive than those in powder form, they are easy to pack for long rides. 

One thing to keep in mind is purchasing the proper type of electrolyte. When you are looking at electrolyte labels, look for ones that use calcium acetate, potassium chloride, or sodium chloride, calcium chloride. These ingredients are easily and quickly absorbed. Do not use any electrolytes that use di-calcium phosphate, as horses are unable to absorb it very well, along with any that list sugar, corn syrup, or dextrose as the first ingredient.

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How Do I Know if My Horse is Overheated? 

Horses that overheat will show signs, occasionally more than one at a time. These signs include discolored gums, disinterest in their environment, an unwillingness to move, and weak or sluggish movements. Additional signs can include a high heart rate or skin that, when pinched, does not quickly retake its form. A pretty obvious indicator that your horse is overheated is if they are still heavily breathing five to ten minutes after they’ve had a chance to rest and cool down.

What to Do When Your Horse is Overheated

Cooling a horse down when it is overheated is extremely beneficial for its health. Before the situation can become severe, if riding you should stop and get into the shade and call your vet. If there isn’t some kind of natural airflow, use a fan to help accelerate the cooling down process. Using cool water, you can start to hose a horse down slowly, starting with the feet and legs. You can gradually start wetting the entire body, including its head. Small amounts of water can be given in intervals of 15 minutes until a veterinarian arrives.

What To Do When Horses Don’t Sweat

When a horse can not sweat, they have a condition called anhidrosis. Anhidrosis typically occurs in the summer, and although the cause of it is not well defined it is commonly believed to be the result of a horse’s sweat glands becoming overstimulated by stress hormones. If your horse has this condition, providing shade and cool water that is accessible at all times will help to minimize heat stress. Additionally, one can reduce the amount of time the horse is out in the sun by turning it out during the evening/night. While inside and out of the heat of the sun, fans should be provided at all times to keep constant airflow in the stalls.

With many different treatment options, anhidrosis can be easily and successfully treated but challenging to cure. Keep in mind that until the horse is successfully medicated for the condition, limited exercise in the heat of the day during the summer months is heavily advised. For those horses that have a minimal case of this condition, the simplest form of medication for this condition is the supplementation of electrolytes. Most cases require more significant management, however, and working with your veterinarian to develop a management plan is key.

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What Do Sweat Patterns Mean on My Horse’s Saddle Pad?

Horses will start to sweat underneath their tack first before sweating anywhere else. Although it is a good sign that your horse is sweating underneath their saddle, sweating patterns under a saddle pad can tell you how your saddle is fitted on your horse. The sweat on their back and on the underside of the saddle pad should be symmetrical on both sides. A proper-fitting saddle will not have any sweat marks along the horse’s spine, providing proper air circulation. This will also mean that the spine of the saddle pad is dry.

Horse With Saddle

FAQ’s:

Does a horse sweat during exercise?

Yes, a horse will sweat during exercise. It is natural and healthy for them to do so.

Is it bad for horses to sweat? 

No, sweating is healthy for them, as it helps them thermoregulate their body temperature. 

What does it mean when my horse’s sweat is foaming? 

Foaming sweat on a horse’s neck and between the back legs means a loss of electrolytes.

What is a horse’s normal internal temperature?

A horse’s normal internal temperature is 99-101.5°F

Why is a horse’s sweat white?

White sweat, as well as foaming, also means a loss of electrolytes.

Do horses sweat a lot?

Horses will sweat 4 gallons per hour, regardless of their level of activity.

Do horses sweat like humans?

Yes, horses sweat to dissipate heat. 

Do horses sweat foam?

No, the foaming of sweat is formed from the number of electrolytes within the sweat.

Do horses sweat when in pain?

Horses can sweat as a sign of discomfort, distress, or pain.

 Why do horses sweat at rest?

Sweating at rest is a way a horse will naturally cool their body down through thermoregulation.

Conclusion 

It is natural and healthy for a horse to sweat, regardless of their activity level. Horses can be supplemented with electrolytes during the summer months, as they lose it through their sweat. Horses that do not sweat can have anhidrosis, which can be a severe health concern if not watched over or taken care of with the help of a veterinarian.


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