Do Horses Sweat, and 5 More Intriguing Questions Answered.


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Most animals covered with fur or hair don’t have sweat glands; for example, dogs cool through panting. This often makes people wonder about horses; do they sweat like humans or cool through other means?

Horses sweat to cool their bodies, and some sweat gallons during hot summer days of hard work. Horses are unique in the animal world because they sweat and produce latherin, which increases evaporation and cool its body efficiently.

There’s a lot a things horse owners need to know to keep their horses healthy, and understanding the basics of equine body temperature and how it cools is essential.

Picture of a horse full of sweat

Essential facts about horse sweat.

All horses should sweat; it’s essential to their well-being. Understanding basic facts about sweating is critical information all horse owners should know.

Horses sweat to cool their bodies.

Sweating is a horse’s primary mechanism to reduce body heat. A horse in work will dissipate almost three-fourths of his metabolic heat production with sweat.

Horses can lose over 10 gallons of sweat per day and as much as 12% of their body weight. In hot, humid climates the vapor pressure in the air retards the evaporation of moisture from the horse’s skin and thus impairs the cooling mechanism.

Horses sweat to rid their bodies of heat. Their body temperature rises during exertion-especially if the animal is unfit, in hot weather, has a high fever, or is in intense pain or distress. Once the temperature reaches a level considered too high, the body will release sweat to regulate the temperature lower.

Too much sweating can be harmful.

Excessive sweating can lead to dehydration. Sweating is good; however, if your horses sweat excessively, it could lead to dehydration. Monitor your horses and take notice when they sweat.

Do your horses sweat during exercise, or does it happen spontaneously? Do they sweat all over their bodies or just specific areas? Pay attention to any changes in eating or drinking patterns. Click here to read about how much weight a horse will typically lose during a race.

Also monitor your horses’ heart rate, both before and after exercise, and then again after a period of rest. You will need to log this information and provide it to your veterinarian to help him determine the cause of the excessive sweating.

To learn more about equine dehydration, you may gain some useful information from this article: Is My Horse Dehydrated? 10 Clear Signs of Equine Dehydration.

Horse’s need to sweat.

When a horse doesn’t sweat normally, it is called anhidrosis. This condition can lead to severe consequences, even death for your horse if left unattended.

horses sweat,horses need to sweat,

Horse’s that don’t sweat could have a heatstroke.

Heatstroke most often occurs in stabled horses in hot, moist climates, and the southern United States is the most common area for this to happen. Horses suffering from anhidrosis will display unusual signs and not perform healthily.

If a horse doesn’t sweat, he loses the ability to cool himself. The lack of the ability to cool himself leads to dangerously high internal body temperature resulting in signs of depression, rapid breathing, and hair loss. A horse that doesn’t sweat is at risk of heatstroke and life-threatening hyperthermia.

Rapid breathing is a sign of anhidrosis.

The signs you need to look for if you believe your horse is suffering from anhidrosis is rapid breathing, flared nostrils, and a fever. You may also notice dry skin that is hot when touched.

Horses that are chronically afflicted the skin will become dry and scaly with associated hair loss. These horses may maintain the ability to sweat under their jaw or around the ears, but the general areas, the neck, and chest will not sweat.

Contact a vet if your horse has anhidrosis.

After your examination and if you believe your horse has anhidrosis, you need to contact a veterinarian to test the animal. If your horse is confirmed to suffer from this disease, there may not be a cure. The best solution is to try to manage the condition. The following are some suggestions:

horses, sweat,sweat can lead to anhidrosis,
  • Move your horse to a colder climate;
  • Do not overexert during exercise;
  • Stable him in an area that allows access to fans, shade or air conditioning;
  • Add electrolytes to diet, (not a cure); Click here to check prices for electrolytes on Amazon.
  • If your horse experiences an acute episode move him to a shady area and spray him with fresh cool water and contact a veterinarian.

Horses lather when they work hard.

If you have been around horses, you have seen white lather on them. Lathering occurs typically after a horse has been worked hard, although just like humans sweat at different rates, horses sweat at differing rates as well.

Some will produce lather with less effort than others. Most mammals that have bodies covered in hair or fur don’t have sweat glands, and they cool themselves by other means, dogs pant to cool.

horses sweat,horses lather when they work hard,

Fur keeps moisture from evaporating and thus prevents cooling. So how does horses sweat succeed in cooling their bodies? By lathering, the proteins in horses sweat act as a surfactant, a chemical that reduces the friction between surfaces, this protein creates the lather, and the lather allows the sweat to dissipate and cool the surface skin.

Horses can swim.

Horses can swim, and most enjoy doing it. Swimming is an excellent exercise for a horse and can be used to keep your horse in shape during times he is rehabbing an injury.

Racehorse trainers and other professional horse trainers use swimming as a means to exercise their horses without putting stress on joints caused by regular workouts on the track.

But, before you take off into the ocean to swim with your horse, you need to take a few precautions. First, ride your horse through some shallow creeks and watch his reaction, he should be comfortable and familiar around water before bringing him to swim.

A horse can hurt you with its hoofs when swimming.

Also, know your horse, you have to be able to control your horse once you are in the water. Control in this sense means the horse must be manageable with a lead rope, if he gets scared in the water, he may try to get on top of you for help. You must be able to control him at all times. You can get hurt if he catches you with one of his hoofs.

Don’t swim your horse saddled.

Next, make sure your horse has minimal tack; this means no saddle, martingales, or breast collars. Less is better. Also, be familiar with the place you intend to swim your horse.

Make sure there are no surprises in the water that could spook your horse and ruin the experience. Ideally, you would want to walk your horse into a gradually sloping water hole with a firm, clean bottom.

Be patient with your horse when its first learning to swim.

Lead your horse into the water. Give your horse ample opportunity to test the water, and get comfortable with this new experience. When you feel it’s suitable, lead him into deeper water until he has to swim. Then lead him back to the shore. You will have to monitor his progress and watch how he takes to swimming.

Once he is an accomplished swimmer, you can take him swimming and try to experiment with different techniques, such as swimming beside him, riding him during a swim.

It is a fun experience to swim with your horse during a hot summer trail ride. Always remember to be careful, stay forward of his withers when you are in the water with him. His legs are dangerous.

A Horse can have twins.

Yes, horses can have twins, but it is rare, about 1-10,000 horse pregnancies, and less than that are born healthy. Twin births are not desired, because mares rarely can keep the full fetus term.

Often twin births are difficult deliveries and result in the death of either one, both or even the mother. A mare having a successful delivery does not guarantee the twin’s survival.

Horses aren’t built to care for twins, resulting in poor delivery of nutrition for both foals, which could result in the death of one or the lack of proper growth for both. It is rare for a horse to successfully deliver a set of healthy twins and have them develop normally.

Horses don’t typically eat meat.

Horses do not usually eat meat; they are herbivores. Free-roaming horses graze approximately 14-18 hours per day. There are stories about horses eating meat or fish in a dire situation.

However, that does not change the fact that they are vegetarians. One instance that commonly gets mentioned is the Scott expedition to Antarctica.

During the expedition, Scott brought with him some horses. He added dried fish to their diet to supplement the horse’s protein intake. There have also been instances of this occurring in other extreme climates.

There have been times when humans ate each other; however, this does not make us all cannibals. The fact is horses are herbivores and do not eat meat. Click here to find out if horses eat watermelon rinds.

Seals have bigger eyes than horses.

Whales, seals, and ostriches all have bigger eyes than horses. However, Horses do have the biggest eyes of all land mammals. Horses’ eyes are unique; their vision is both monocular and binocular.

They can see panoramic with either eye; this is their monocular vision at work. Their binocular vision is directed down their nose. To find out if horses are color blind check out this article, click here.

Horses are incapable of vomiting.

A horse’s anatomical structure will not allow it to vomit. A horse has a one-way shut-off valve in which the food travels from the mouth of a horse to its stomach.

This valve does not allow food to move upwards and out of the mouth. This valve also serves to prevent food from going into the lungs once taken into the mouth. You can read a more in-depth discussion about horses’ anatomy here

The lack of the ability to vomit does not seem to be a problem for most horses fed a good healthy diet. However, colic is the highest cause of death in domesticated horses. There is an exception when a horse may vomit –when it’s close to death.

Have you ever heard of a wild horse dying of colic? Probably not. (To read more on a horses’ proper diet read this article.

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Miles Henry

I love animals! Especially horses, I've been around them most of my life but I am always learning more and enjoy sharing with others. I have bought, sold, and broke racehorse yearlings. I have raised some winning horses and had some that didn't make it as racehorses, so we trained them in other disciplines. Miles Henry

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