When the weather gets hot, people are advised to take precautions, but the four-legged stars of the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth aren’t immune to the summer heat wave.
Greg Evans, lead veterinarian with the Calgary Stampede, says the Stampede is taking extra care to make sure the stars of the rodeo are keeping their cool.
“We don’t have any control over the weather, obviously, but it’s about sort of managing their exposure to the heat and then sort of managing their recovery afterwards,” Evans said.
“The idea is to try and minimize the amount of time (the horses) are sort of in the sun or unnecessarily in the sun, and then allow them adequate recovery time before their next competition.”
Lead a horse to water
With fans, ice baths, cool water misters and even a version of Gatorade for horses, Evans said the barns are probably the coolest place on the grounds, and animal safety is a priority for the veterinary staff.
Chuckwagon driver Jamie Laboucane said even though the horses are “adapted to competition in the summer time,” drivers are keeping a close eye on their animals.
Some signs of animal sunstroke and heat exhaustion include lethargy and scant or small amounts of urination.
“In really extreme cases of animal heatstroke in dogs and horses, they actually stop sweating,” Laboucane said.
“So if we have those sorts of indicators, those are significant indicators of a dehydration case and would absolutely be flags for future competition.”
Feeling the heat
Environment Canada predicts dry weather with high temperatures hovering around 30 C through Sunday.
Even though it will be unseasonably warm this Stampede season, Laboucane said it’s unlikely temperatures will reach a level that would put a stop to competition.
“We don’t really reach those points,” Laboucane said. “But if we had sustained temperatures in the 40s, I would be considering those things. But I hope we don’t reach that for everyone’s sake.”
Laboucane said the Stampede’s animal health program has improved in recent years and has resulted in a “fitter and better conditioned group of animals.”
“I think, anecdotically, I would say there is evidence that things are making a difference,” Laboucane said.
“Now that’s not to say that we can control every variable, but I think I’m pleased with the fact that we’ve seen positive trends, and I hope that continues.”
- With files from Dave Gilson
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