Keeping Cool at a Horse Show

Horse shows can be a lot of fun, but no matter what state they are held in, they can be extremely hot for both you and your horse. Local fairs are usually a hub-bub of activity with hundreds of people, all sorts of animals, and high levels of heat and humidity. All these factors can combine to make your horse agitated, uncomfortable, and have a negative impact on his performance. There are a number of things you can do to keep your horse and yourself cooler in the high temperatures, because heatstroke is a danger for kids and horses who have not been conditioned to working in the heat. Let’s take a look at some of the ways you both can stay cool!

Rachel Hansen, 14, of Walton, guides her horse Quick Angel Rocket around a barrel during the Nebraska State 4-H Horse Expo's junior Barrel Racing competition in the outdoor arena Wednesday at Fonner Park in Grand Island. (Independent/Barrett Stinson)

Water and Hydration

Your horse is going to need a minimum of 10 gallons of water each day. If the temperature is extremely high, even that won’t be sufficient. Make sure you supply as much water as he can drink. To ensure adequate intake, use minerals with salt added to the grain they are eating, which will increase his thirst and lead to more drinking. Use Gatorade to increase the electrolytes he is losing. Yes, I said Gatorade! You can add it to a 5-gallon pail of water, usually about 1 liter is sufficient. Keep a 5-gallon pail of plain water in the stall also. You can also soak his hay with water to ensure proper hydration.

Your Clothing

If the temperatures soar on the day of your show, try to avoid wearing anything black if possible. If that is the only color you have, you can opt to wear a hat that is lighter in color, or even straw if need be. If you are required to wear a jacket, wear the lightest clothing you have underneath the jacket. (sleeveless blouse, etc.) Heatstroke is dangerous, and you don’t want to put yourself in that danger if it can be avoided by a simple change of clothing.



Always try to have access to good cross ventilation or shady areas for both you and your horse. Use a fan just outside the stall to keep stagnant air moving, creating a breeze for the animal. Don’t use stall blankets because they will just hold the heat in, and they are not necessary if it is very hot. If you are showing, take breaks between your classes by moving your horse to a shady area. If there is time, you may even give him a quick spot bath with cool water by hosing off his chest and legs. You’d be amazed at how much better he is going to feel and act the next time you enter the ring!


Feed your animal smaller, lighter meals than normal. (this is good for you, as well) Instead of the larger meals you feed him at home, give the horse smaller meals frequently throughout the course of the day. You can purchase a grain that is lower in starch, sugar, and carbs to use during show-times or fairs that are taking place in hot, humid weather. The same applies to you-eat lighter snacks and combine those with fruits and vegetables instead of the heavy, greasy food that is found at most fairs.


All in all, your horse showing fair experience can be a fun, pleasant experience for both you and your horse if you take precautions to avoid the hot temperatures that are part and parcel of any summer day no matter where you live! Just by following the guidelines listed above can keep you both cooler and more comfortable.

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