The Heat Is On!
Heat stress is a serious concern for all during the summer, particularly in the South. Exertional heat stress can cause severe injuries and even death, but the good news is that it’s 100% preventable.
Heatstroke is a potentially deadly condition that can come on suddenly with little warning. Heatstroke occurs when heat production outpaces heat loss.
When it's hot and humid, humans aren’t the only species that suffer from overheating. Horses and other livestock feel the discomfort of heat and humidity, too.
What is Heat Index?
According to the National Weather Service, heat index is also known as apparent temperature. It is the measurement of what the temperature feels like outside to humans (and horses) when relative humidity is combined with air temperature.
What Heat Index Means to Your Horse
A horse’s normal internal body temperature ranges from 100 to 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit. If a horse’s temperature reaches 105 degrees, it begins to become confused and uncoordinated. When its temperature reaches beyond 111.5, the tissues can begin to break down.
US Polo provides the following chart and information on monitoring heat index for horses as it provides solid general guidelines for working your horse:
Working your horses in a steamy climate significantly increases their susceptibility to heatstroke. High humidity compromises the evaporative process because up to two-thirds of the heat-releasing sweat will roll off of the horse's body before it can evaporate and cool the horse. This means efficient sweating is not always synonymous with efficient cooling.
If the sum of the temperature (in F) and humidity is:
· Less than 130 - no problem.
· Greater than 150 - use caution, especially if the humidity is greater than half of the total.
· Greater than 180 - use extreme caution, since normal cooling is almost ineffectual and horses may resort to panting.
It's important to measure the heat index for horses for their own health and safety. Horses can have heat strokes just like humans. If you are uncertain about your ability to monitor heat stress, the good news is that there are products to monitor heat stress in humans and horses. These convenient devices give measurements for temperature, relative humidity, heat stress index, dew point temperature and temperature-humidity index.