If you are a new horse owner, you might be worried if your horse is sweating too much or too little. Here are the nitty-gritty details that you need to know.
Do horses sweat? Yes, they do. Horses sweat to cool themselves on a warm day or after exercise to bring their body temperature to normal.
How much sweat is normal for horses? A horse can lose as much as 15 liters of sweat per hour on a balmy day during strenuous work. When the sweat gets foamy, it’s a warning sign that your horse is losing too much fluid and electrolytes.
In this article, we’ll be discussing what’s normal for a sweating horse, why and how does a horse produce sweat, the levels of sweating, and some warning signs for horses that have lost too much fluid.
How Much Does A Horse Sweat: The Smelly Truth
Anyone with a horse knows that they can sweat a lot.
However, horse sweating is not a problem. In fact, sweating is actually their body’s cooling mechanism.
As a horse owner, you shouldn’t be looking for ways to stop your horse from sweating. In fact, you should look for ways to avoid overheating your horse.
For starters, keep your horse hydrated, use an electrolyte supplement (I recommend this best-selling electrolyte for horses of all types – it’s cheap and super-effective). If the sweating gets really out of hand, you can use a sweat scraper.
On a particularly sweltering day or when working out, a horse can lose roughly 15 liters of sweat per hour — that’s around four gallons of sweat.
A healthy, fit, and hardworking horse can produce as much as 12 to 18 liters of sweat after a challenging work out. This makes about 2 to 3% of a horse’s body weight.
Horses don’t cool down just by sweating. In fact, horse sweat evaporation is what cools the body and reduces its temperature.
But why do horses sweat foam and how do they sweat?
The Biological Phenomena of Horse Sweating
When a horse produces more heat than it can dispose of, its body’s core temperature begins to rise above the resting temperature of 99-100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Sweat glands start to secrete sweat which is mostly water with electrolytes dissolved in it.
As the sweat evaporates from the skin, it cools off the skin and reduces the overall body temperature.
Why Do Horses Sweat Foam?
Unlike humans, a horse’s sweat has high dissolved electrolyte content, and that’s why they may succumb to dehydration quicker than humans do.
As horses have an elevated level of electrolytes in the body, they lose more electrolytes in sweat which can be seen in the form of white foam. This white foam is especially apparent in horse sweating between back legs and on the neck where the reins touch the skin.
The white foam contains electrolytes and is a sign that your horse has lost enough body fluid to reach the fifth level of sweating.
How To Estimate Sweat Loss in Horses?
The researchers at the Martin Luther King University, Halle-Wittenberg, Germany, proposed a new scoring system based on the visible evidence of sweating.
They studied 17 warmblooded mares, who were subjected to easy to medium level workouts. The horses were photographed to record the physical evidence of sweat. And they were weighed before and 3 hours after the workout.
The researchers found five levels of sweat loss in horses. By the following chart, you can roughly get an idea based on observation.
|Level of sweating||indications||Sweat loss||% of body weight|
|first level||sticky/dark/ moist areas under the saddle, flanks, and neck.||1 to 4 liters||0.2 to 0.7%|
|second level||Wet areas on throat/ under the tack. Foamy wet patches on the neck and between hind legs||1 to 7 liters||0.7-1.3%|
|Third level||Significantly wet areas on neck, flanks, under saddle and the girth.||7 to 9 liters||1.2 to 1.5%|
|Fourth level||The throat and flanks would be completely wet and moisture above eyes. Along with foaming between hind legs||9 to 12 liters||1.5 to 2.0%|
|Fifth level||The horse will show all the above-mentioned signs, along with heavily dripping in sweat above the eyes and under the belly.||12 to 18 liters||2-3 %|
Factors That Affect Sweating In Horses
If your horse is sweating a lot, it might help to know the factors that lead to that.
The rate of sweating in horses depends on plenty of factors other than arduous work and warm air temperatures.
Also, some factors might contribute to obscuring the true picture. Therefore, it is best to weigh a horse before and after the work out to get a better estimate of the amount of sweat loss.
1. Humidity and air temperature
Air temperature and humidity make a horse sweat more, also the sweat doesn’t get evaporated quickly. This will make your horse look like its excessively sweating.
on a windy day, the sweat will evaporate quickly and the horse would appear to be dry and sweatless even after a challenging work out. On other days when the weather doesn’t support quick evaporation, the horse might appear to be dripping wet.
3. Fitness level
Unfit or sick horses sweat more than fit and healthy horses. That’s when the day is not too hot, and both do not perform hard labor.
4. A heavy coat
A thick coat on a horse can not only mask the true level of sweat production in horses, it also leads to increased sweat production, even in cold months.
5. Disease and sickness
A horse sweating excessively could also be a sign of a disease such as botulism and Cushing’s disease. Therefore, if you feel your horse is excessively sweating without being subjected to exercises, or if it is sweating more than other horses, consulting a Vet might be helpful.
How to cool down your horse when he’s warm?
To make your horse comfortable after heavy exercise, it’s important to walk him till he cools down and the breathing normalizes. Depending on the temperature, amount of exercise, and the fitness level of the horse, you should determine how long you should walk him.
After walking the horse, remove the saddle and squirt some water on the horse or bathe it with warm water.
It is important to wash off the sweat from the body to avoid rashes. Use a good sweat scraper for this purpose. Also, warm water helps with the muscle soreness, so it’s preferred over cold water baths.
The barns should be well ventilated, and it is recommended to cool them on hot days with a fan.
Signs Of Excessive Sweating in Horses
Excessive sweating in a horse can cause dehydration.
It’s important to know that dehydration can significantly affect the horse’s wellbeing. Not just that, but dehydration can inflict illness and even death if not treated on time.
- Labored breathing: When the horse is unable to dispose of heat through sweating, it starts to breathe heavily. The nostril will be flared, and his sides would heave.
- High body temperature: If the body temperature of your horse doesn’t drop after 20 minutes of rest, that’s a clear warning sign that you should get in touch with a vet.
- Exhausted horse: When your horse is dehydrated, it will act all lethargic and will even refuse food.
- lack of elasticity in the skin: To check if your horse is dehydrated, you can pinch its skin. If the body lacks water, the skin will not snap back in place promptly.
- A quiet gut: A lot of gurgle and bubble in the gut is a sign of a healthy horse, but if the gut is quiet, it often represents dehydration.
When to call the vet?
Anhidrosis in Horses: What To Do If Your Horse Doesn’t Sweat At All
Anhidrosis is a condition in horses, that causes zero or very less sweating.
The severity of this condition may vary for different horses.
Signs of Anhidrosis:
- Dry and hot skin after exercise in hot weather
- Laboured, forceful breathing
- The horse might breathe hard on a hot day even without exercise
- The horse would get exhausted quickly
- Loss of hair can also be a sign of anhidrosis
What to do if your horse doesn’t sweat?
if your horse doesn’t sweat, you need to take the following measures:
- Provide exercise early in the morning or in the evening when the temperature is not too hot
- Give him frequent breaks for recovery from exercise
- Cool your horse after exercise by bathing him and keeping him in a shaded place, possibly with a fan
- Keep him in the barn during the hottest hours of the day — better to let him out during nights. Keep the barn ventilated
How much water does a horse need in a day?
A horse requires 10 to 20 gallons of fresh water in a day. Make sure to offer him water at least once every hour.
Why is my horse sweating in winter?
The horses can sweat even in the coldest months of the year. The reason could be their metabolism, also the thick winter coat can add to the sweating. That is why many horse owners clip their horses for winters. Here’s a list of horse clipping styles that you may want to check out.
Horses sweat, and they can lose up to 15 liters of fluid through sweating per hour.
That’s a lot of fluid and electrolyte loss, therefore, they should be provided with ample water all the times. A horse needs 12 gallons of clear fresh water in a day. Ideally, they should drink water every hour.
If your horse is dull, has hot skin, and refuses water and food this may be a sign of dehydration, call the vet immediately to prevent further damage.
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Featured image by Don Wright