Horse Power NEC Taupō NEC Christchurch

Caring for horses in the heat

Thanks to Harness Racing NZ for sharing the below with us.

January 2024

Summer has arrived in most parts of New Zealand this month with many areas reaching temperatures in the 30s.  In order to keep your horse/s happy and healthy during very hot weather, here are some things you should consider:


Rugging in hot weather should be done so carefully. Over-rugging in summer can become a huge welfare issue as horses rely on sweating to maintain a safe core body temperature. When a rug is used, air cannot pass over their body to evaporate the sweat and cool their body.

Synthetic or heavy canvas rugs are NOT suitable for use on a hot day. Heat exhaustion, also called heat stress, is a life-threatening condition that develops when a horse is unable to cool himself by sweating.

A white, summer cool sheet can be effective in reflecting the heat and harmful UV rays, particularly if your horse has areas of sensitive pink skin or your horse has a dark coloured coat.

Click here to read more about the science of rugging horses, by Dr David Marlin


On average horses in hot weather at rest can drink up to 60L a day. This will increase if the horse is exercised and electrolyte replenishment should be included if the horse is worked on a hot day (with access to water).


Horses turned out should have access to shade otherwise if possible, move them inside to a well ventilated stable or covered yard.

Horses with pink areas of skin, particularly in the muzzle area are prone to burning. Like human sunburn this is extremely painful. Zinc or shade flaps should be considered as a preventative measure.

Heat Stress

Signs of heat stress in your horse include rapid respiratory rate or laboured breathing, elevated temperature at rest, unusual sweating response (too much or too little sweat), lethargy and decreased appetite.


Click here for tips for exercising horses safely in summer, by Dr David Marlin.


Our social licence is critical for the longevity of our industry and we are all aware that the public are scrutinising our every move. As an industry we need to continue to ensure we are exceeding animal welfare standards.