Can Friesian horses survive hot climates (40 degree celcius)?

When is it too hot for horses?
What temperature is too hot for horses?
How hot can horses tolerate?
How to spot when a horse is too hot?
How to spot a hot horse? 

These are some of the issues I am often asked, and with so much contradicting information on the internet and social media, it’s easy to see why owners are confused. In case you are unaware of my qualifications to provide guidance on this subject, I worked with the FEI before to the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games on the management of horses in thermally demanding settings. I’ve also written a number of research articles on the subject and served as an FEI adviser at the Olympic Games in Athens, Beijing, and Tokyo, as well as a number of World Equestrian Games.

Horses may be found in both the coldest and hottest parts of the world. Nevertheless, breeds in hotter regions, like as Arabians, tend to be thinner and more angular, as opposed to heavier draught or Warmblood kinds. As a result, Arabian and Thoroughbred horses are inherently better adapted to warmer regions. Summer temperatures of 20-25°C offer no concern to most horses if you reside in a temperate region, such as the UK. However, sudden heatwaves are a risk, particularly for older horses, young horses, overweight horses and horses with long-term health issues such as heart disease or equine asthma or Cushings. Heatwaves are also an issue since horses and ponies are not suited or acclimatized to the increased temperatures. It takes many months of living at higher temperatures or several weeks of training to do this. So for example, a fit event horse that is coping fine in normal summer weather may really struggle if asked to do the same work when it’s 10-15°C warmer. Acclimatization will assist to some extent, but a decrease in exercise ability is unavoidable. If in doubt, the safest method is to avoid exercising during the hottest portion of the day unless you want to acclimate.

Some horses and ponies may be uncomfortable in the heat even while resting. Depending on the stable architecture and materials, certain horses and ponies may be better off outdoors than inside. For example, wooden stables with black felt roofs can be very hot in the day in summer whereas old brick stables with high ceilings may be much cooler than outside. Spraying horses and ponies all over with water and letting them to dry naturally may make a great difference in their comfort. If they must wear fly rugs, they may be wetted down to promote comfort.

The amount of heat produced by an animal during exercise is proportional to its oxygen intake. Even with physical disparities, horses can utilize oxygen 2-3 times quicker than humans. As a result, they create heat 2-3 times quicker than humans do. Horses are huge animals, and as such, they have a more difficult time getting rid of heat than, say, humans. In humans and horses, the bulk of heat loss happens at the body’s surface. Therefore, although being 6-7 times bigger than a human, a horse only has 2.5 times more skin surface, which is ideal for staying warm in cold weather but not ideal for releasing body heat in hot weather. The horse, on the other hand, has evolved to sweat more than any other animal. Horses can also handle significantly greater body temperatures than humans. A horse can endure 42.5°C for brief periods of time, but a human would be very unwell with a body temperature of 40°C.

Horses who have gotten overheated are readily identified. For starters, they will be drenched in perspiration and have raised blood vessels in their skin. They will be “blowing” forcefully – inhaling deeply and loudly with flaring nostrils. They will feel heated to the touch and may be eager, or they may look ignorant of or unresponsive to their environment. They are also often shaky on their feet (ataxic). Slowly guiding them with gentle turns may help lessen the chance of horses collapsing. Lastly, if a rectal temperature is obtained, it is likely to be higher than 40°C. When horses stop exercising, their rectal temperature lags behind their muscular temperature because heat is “transported” across the body. Hence, a horse who finishes a race or competition at 40°C may quickly rise to 41°C or more as the rectal temperature “catch up” with the rest of the body.

The greater the temperature, the greater the need to cool the horse down. Cooling should begin immediately, even before a rectal temperature is recorded. The most efficient method is to constantly cover as much of the horse as possible with water for 5-10 minutes before pausing to see how the animal is doing. Trying to chill particular regions, such as huge veins, is a waste of effort. If you have access to cold water, you can chill the horse quickly and safely. But even cool water at say 30°C will bring a horse’s temperature down; it will just take more water and longer. If you’re using a hose, be sure to run it in case the water inside has become warm from the sun. If in doubt, consult a veterinarian.

More Information:

  • Article – Best Practice for horses in a Heatwave
  • In 30 seconds, learn why you should never wipe water off a hot horse.
  • Keep your horse safe in hot weather with this article.
  • Video – Surviving the heat!
  • Article – Health Caution! Advice to keep you and your horse safe in warm or hot weather
  • What Is the Most Effective Way to Cool a Hot Horse?
  • Cooling and scraping and their impact on a horse’s surface temperature
  • Dr. David Marlin’s News Video – Training For Tokyo – Cooling
  • Article – How to Manage and Feed Horses in Hot and Humid Conditions
  • PrePrint Research Report – Comparison of the Cooling Effectiveness of Various Horse Leg Cooling Techniques


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Dr. David Marlin is a biochemist and physiologist who has worked in academia, research, and professional sports. He has worked in the equestrian and veterinary world and in human sport, healthcare, medicine and exercise science.
After a four-year research on the reactions of Thoroughbred racehorses to exercise and training at the famous Animal Health Trust in Newmarket, David received his Doctorate from the UK’s best sports institution, Loughborough University, in 1989.
David’s whole biography may be seen in the Our Website section.

Related Questions

  • What temperature is too hot for a horse?

    When the combined air temperature (F) and relative humidity exceed 150, avoid riding your horse, particularly if the animal is not adapted to the heat.

  • Are Friesian horses hot?

    Friesian is classified as a warmblood. The original Friesian was bred with the Spanish Andalusian breed, which included Arabian genes. The Arabian horse is a warm-blooded animal. Warmbloods commonly have a calmer temperament than hot-bloods but aren’t as listful as cold-blood.

  • Can horses overheat?

    Summer heat may be deadly for horses, particularly if they are unsuitable or overworked. Horses suffering from hyperthermia (excessive body heat) may soon become dehydrated, sluggish, and feeble. Extreme heat stress may induce colic, diarrhoea, and collapse, so keep your horse cool.

  • Is A Friesian A Warm Blood?

    The Friesian breed has been preserved free of foreign blood for the last two centuries, making it a genetically separate member of the “warmblood” group of horse breeds.

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