How to Care for Your Horse in Dry Weather

Don’t let your horse suffer during dry conditions. Good preparation and some practical steps can help your horse maintain good condition, even during drought.

While we often have a mental image of horses grazing on green rolling hills in New Zealand, this is sometimes not the reality. Most of the country has fallen victim to a lack of rainfall this summer, particularly Northland, Auckland and parts of Waikato, which is prime horse land.

Even without drought conditions the lush green grass we see from late spring to early summer usually gives way to dry, brown paddocks in late summer as the heat rises. If rain doesn’t fall for a prolonged period of time, the hot weather can affect the health and wellbeing of horses.

Horse’s hooves vulnerable in dry weather

During drought, everything dries out – including horses’ hooves. Without vital moisture, this can lead to hooves cracking, which can be a painful and debilitating condition. If the hoof wall gets too dry, the pressure and weight placed on it by the horse increases the likelihood of cracks and chips occurring.

One way to prevent this is to let your water trough run over slightly. This will wet the ground around the trough, meaning your horse’s hooves will absorb moisture when they come to drink. Another way to maintain hoof health is to buy and apply moisturising hoof oils directly to the wall of the hoof.

Dry, or drought, conditions create parched paddocks where horses eat the grass down to its roots. To avoid your horse losing weight and condition during an extended dry spell, it’s important to formulate a plan to supplement feed them.

Supplement feed when grazing is poor

To keep its gut working well, a horse needs to consume one to two per cent of its body weight daily in forage-based dry food. A 400kg horse, for example, will need at minimum 4kg of forage each day. If you have no grass due to dry weather, hay, baleage or silage work well to help maintain your horse’s health. Hay is always a good option for horses, as it contains roughage and nutrients that are necessary to maintain good horse health.

For a hydrating treat for your horse, fill an ice cream tub with water, add some chopped up carrots or apples and a dash of molasses and then put it in your freezer overnight. When the sun beats down and the temperature rises, take the ice square out and give it to your horse. An iced lolly will provide great relief and enjoyment for your horse!

Being prepared is the best way to ensure you can keep your horses healthy and happy when dry weather hits. Maintaining your horse’s diet, moisture content and body temperature – where possible – will help you make it through until the drought breaks.