There are a few factors we can manage as horse owners to help our equine partners against heat stress. The first is protein intake. Excess protein digestion causes excess heat production which leads to elevated core temperature.
Most mature, idle horses only need a 10% crude protein diet and that includes forage and concentrate. It’s important to choose the right crude protein in your feed relative to the forage you’re providing. For example: if you’re feeding a grass hay you may need a 14% protein feed but if you’re feeding alfalfa you may only need a 12%. Crude protein doesn’t tell the whole story as there are varying quality sources. Look for soybean meal, alfalfa meal, whey and added essential amino acids. Try to stay away from feeds that contain corn gluten and distillers as the main protein sources because they have an imbalanced amino acid profile that can make heat stress worse.
The kind of energy we provide also has an impact on heat stress. Increased energy from fat and decreased energy from carbohydrates may decrease heat production. Hindgut fermentation produces A LOT of heat but horses still need to eat at least 2% of their body weight in long stem forage. Providing a high quality forage with a low NDF and avoiding low quality feed ingredients such as rice and almond hulls will help with the heat produced in the hindgut. Overweight horses produce more heat when exercised than horses in ideal condition so we want to be mindful of providing too much energy and not enough exercise. A large amount of electrolytes are lost in sweat, urine and breathing so providing salt, a mineral block and feed that contains the correct mineral balance will help replenish what is lost.
Water is the most important nutrient. An idle horse will consume 5-10 gallons per day and a working horse or broodmare will need around 20 gallons. Cool water is best an horses will be more likely to drink if the water is 45˚ rather than 85˚. Leaky gut syndrome has become a hot topic and is more likely to happen if a horse is experiencing heat stress. What happens is the intestinal barrier is impaired allowing pathogenic bacteria and toxins into the bloodstream. Probiotics have been shown to decrease pathogenic bacteria in the gut and improve digestion. All ADM horse feeds are fortified with electrolytes, most are lower in starch/sugar, we don’t use low quality ingredients such as rice hulls and almost all our products contain probiotics. Ask about our new Summer Care heat abatement/fly control supplement! For more information visit: admequine.com.