What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Heat Exhaustion after Intense Exercise


After intense exercise, a horse's ability to regulate heat may decompensate for a variety of reasons. A horse whose temperature has been raised during exercise may not be able to cool down quickly enough due to a hot and humid environment that inhibits sweating, or their ability to sweat may be impaired (anhidrosis).

Heat exhaustion, heat stroke and sun stroke all refer to variations on this syndrome, which most commonly happens to competition horses that have exercised intensely in hot and humid weather. This can also happen to horses that have been standing or turned out in intense hot sun without access to shade and/or decreased access to a fresh water source.

Horses with heat exhaustion have usually suffered from severe fluid and electrolyte loss as part of this syndrome. They reach a point of shock in which their bodies cannot recover without intensive veterinary care. This condition may coincide with muscle problems (exertional rhabdomyolysis or "tying-up"), abdominal pain (colic) and other conditions.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
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your role


What To Do

Do not force the horse to walk unless necessary. Try to transport the horse to shade and ventilation. Offer ample water and immediately call your vet, who may advise that you give paste electrolytes to stimulate thirst and/or give the horse a bath before they arrive. If the rectal temperature is >105F, your vet may advise you to bathe the horse with a cold hose.

your vet's role

Your vet evaluates the severity of the problem through physical examination, and may run laboratory tests on blood to determine electrolyte values and rule out muscle damage (Tying Up) and other underlying conditions. Symptomatic treatment may include oral and IV fluids, and cooling with water and/or alcohol baths.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Describe the type of exercise and riding that you do with your horse.
  • Did you exercise the horse more than usual?
  • Has the horse tolerated this exercise intensity in the past?
  • Have you tried any treatments?
  • What treatments have you tried?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP