Horses and Heat
Victoria has an ideal climate for carriage horses. According to the City of Victoria, we have “a very low humidity ratio and almost constant offshore breezes which keep summer days from becoming too hot”.
Tally-Ho’s sightseeing stand is ideally located next to the inner harbour, where the breezes can reach us, and where the horses are provided shade from boulevard trees during the hottest parts of the day. In the hotter summer months, horses are given daily electrolytes and offered soaked feed to ensure they are optimizing their hydration. We make sure they always have access to water, give them frequent rests between tours and we also give cold water hosings to make sure they are keeping cool as cucumbers!
But doesn’t the pavement burn there feet!? No, horses do not have nerve endings or blood supply on the bottom of their hoofs. This is why they are able to have their hoofs picked and shoed without any pain. In addition all of our horses have shoes on, which adds an extra layer of elevation from the pavement.
They do not tend to suffer from muscle or heat stress due to the light work they perform (only using about 20% of their actual pulling capacity, and keeping to a walk). Tally-Ho has never had a horse suffer from heat stress.
However, despite all these favourable conditions all of our staff here at Tally-Ho are all trained in recognizing any possible signs of heat stress and how to properly respond. Signs of heat stress can include:
- Restlessness, lethargy or depression
- A heart rate of 80 or more that does not return to normal after several minutes of rest
- An erratic heart beat
- A respiratory rate of 30 or more that does not return to normal after several minutes of rest
- Sweating that is either excessive or ceases altogether
- Body temperature in excess of 103 °Fahrenheit that does not decrease with several minutes of rest
- Excessive salivation or redness of the tongue and mouth area
- Muscle spasms, stumbling gait or collapse
Horses have natural, built in heat-reduction capabilities. “As the body temperature climbs and adrenaline levels increase, sweat glands respond by producing a hypertonic (highly concentrated) salt solution that coats the hair. Under normal circumstances horses cool by evaporative cooling and convection. The movement of air over their body is paramount to both of these mechanisms.
- Evaporative cooling: The sweat coats the hairs and as air flows over them it pulls the moisture and the heat off the horse.
- Convection: Blood vessels near the skin dilate and allow the transfer of heat from the blood into the air.
Once their body temperature reaches greater than 42C, the respiratory system kicks in to help “blow off” some of the extra body heat (approximately 15% of the body heat can be dissipated via respiration).”1
The most common measure used to indicate when caution should be used in working a horse is the Horse Heat Index which all staff members are also trained to reference.