Beer for my horses - A discussion about equine anhidrosis
So the saying isn't just lyrics from a song?
July & August bring out some stressful times for horse owners, especially those of us who live in some of the most hot and humid places on Earth - Florida, Texas, Louisiana. Many blame the condition known as anhidrosis (the inhability to sweat) to just hot temperatures, but it is the combination of heat and humidity that causes a horse to stop sweating. This can happen over time, or in many instances, very quickly. In the case of my gelding Boadie, it does seem to happen overnight and starts in early July when the temperatures start skyrocketing and the humidity is unbearable. I have also read that anhidrosis is onset when temperatures don't reach below 70 degrees for a few consecutive evenings.
A horse who is experiencing anhidrosis will display some common characteristics besides the obvious:
- Rapid breathing when sedentary - you can see the nostrils flaring and the flanks going in and out rapidly when he's just standing around doing nothing.
- Flaky, dry skin - especially around the face, neck, chest, and hindquarters.
- Acting lethargic.
- Slow recovery time after a workout.
- Only minimal sweating - not as much sweat as you would expect to see or unnatural sweat behaviors that are not normal for your particular horse. If your horse is usually drenched after 10 minutes of riding and one day you get off and he has just a small patch of sweat under his saddle area for instance.
So how can I manage my non-sweater?
Here are some basic guidelines that will help your horse start sweating again:
- Keep him cool. Some type of relief needs to be provided such as a run-in shelter or lots of shade trees. The best option is of course a confined stall (where he can't be run around by his buddies) and a fan with misters if available. Turn-out should be done at night.
- Back off the exercise. Give the guy a break and let him have a couple weeks off until you are able to get him sweating again. If he can't have a break (like my guy), then try to work him when it's cooler outside such as early in the morning or late in the evening and shorten the sessions. I also make sure I listen to his breathing while I'm riding and take more breaks than I normally would to let him catch his breath.
- Supplements. One-AC is the preferred brand although there are now others on the market. It is available at many tack/feed stores or can be purchased in almost any catalog or online sites such as http://www.jeffersequine.com or http://www.valleyvet.com. Start supplementing early! If you have a horse that has a history of being a non-sweater or is a poor sweater, be proactive. The supplement One-AC is most effective when used BEFORE the horse stops sweating completely. Start before the hot summer months and keep him on it until the fall.
- Beer. Yes, it's not just for people! You'll find a lot of different information about what kinds to use and how often, some say only Guinness extra stout due to the higher alocohol content and more carbonation, some will say only dark beers and others will say they've had success with the cheapest available. I'd imagine that it just depends on the horse, but I haven't found a horse that doesn't like one poured over their feed, so if money is an issue (and it can get pricey feeding Guinness twice a day), I'd say try with the cheapest and you can only move up from there! I would recommend one can or bottle per feeding. I have found that the cheapest "dark" beer I was able to find was Yuengling Dark & Tan in a 12-pack case at Wal-Mart for about $10. I found that Amber Bock was "thinner" in consistency and Yuengling was more consistent with Guinness.
- Electrolytes. There have been some studies that suggest that feeding electrolytes will help stimulate the horse to sweat again. They can be fed over grain or mixed in with water. If mixed in their water, make sure you provide 2 sources to chose from - a bucket with electrolytes and one without. Unfortunately, my gelding Boadie also is HYPP N/H, which causes an abnormal potassium buildup in his cells, and I can't feed him regular electrolytes. Regular, non-iodized, white table salt can also be used instead.
- Look at his diet. A horse who is consuming a diet consisting of over 25% protein in his total ration during the day is more susceptible to anhidrosis. This can be the case for a horse in heavy training, a hard keeper, breeding or young horses, or a horse needing to put on weight who needs the calories and are on high protein diets such as alfalfa or any commercial high protein feed like Omolene 300 or XTN. Fat (such as corn oil or rice bran)can be used safely to replace some of the protein in the diet.
- Acupunture. The University of Florida has shown some studies where acupunture may help with non sweaters. I have not personally tried it yet, but would definitely consider it as I have had friends helped greatly with acupunture.
- Sell him. Well, this might not be the option you want to hear, but cooler climates will help encourage the horse horse to sweat normally again and may be the only option for horses who do not respond to the remedies listed above.