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Feeding the Horse in Hot Weather


From Kentucky Equine Research; by Martin W. Adams, Ph.D., PAS, Equine Nutritionist



Most show and racing seasons occur during the summer season when we experience the hottest weather of the year. Did you know you should alter your feed program when the temperatures rise? Learn how to decrease your horse’s heat load and increase stamina and health during hot weather.

  • Supplement electrolytes to hard-working horses. Depletion of electrolytes interferes with muscle contraction resulting in fatigue, poor performance, and severe loss of potassium. Electrolytes help replace minerals lost in sweat and increase water consumption.
  • Limit protein intake. When protein is fed in excess of daily requirements, the horse must break down the protein for energy production. This process generates more metabolic heat compared to regular digestion and absorption of dietary protein, resulting in increased breathing and sweating rates to remove the extra heat.
  • Provide fresh clean water at the proper temperature. Research shows horses drink more water when it is kept between 45° and 65° F. Ensure water is in an insulated and/or shaded container during hot weather.
  • Switch to a high-fat feed or add a high-fat supplement. Fat is digested, absorbed and metabolized more efficiently than any other nutrient, producing less metabolic heat, which reduces the energy needed to lower body temperature potentially resulting in lower calorie and water needs.
Make dietary changes gradually. Especially during hot weather, drastic changes in the type or amount of grain or hay could upset your horse’s digestive system. Introduce new feedstuffs gradually, over a period of ten days.

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