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The Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (PTHA) works hard to protect and provide for the Parx Racing horsemen through the guarantee of live racing, horsemen’s rights, health care and pension for horsemen, benevolence programs, and more.


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Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association (PTHA)

  /  NEWS   /  Preventing Heat-Related Problems in Racehorses

Preventing Heat-Related Problems in Racehorses

Preventing Heat Problems_3On warm, hot, humid or still conditions, or if requested by the state veterinarian, please:

  • Cool horses before and after races with cold water
  • Remove saddles and blinkers promptly after the race
  • Apply large amounts of cold water as soon as possible
  • Scrape off the water before walking back to the stable area (water remaining on horse’s back will hold in heat and inhibit cooling)

Preventing Heat Stress:

    Preventing Heat Problems_1

  • Inform the state vet if your horse has a history of problems with heat
  • Have drinking water available (for horses and grooms)
  • Do not withdraw water before racing on hot, humid days – dehydrated horses are more prone to heat stress
  • While horses lose electrolytes sweating, it is not necessary (nor permitted) to administer electrolytes within 24 hours prior to racing. Electrolytes may be given with the regular diet and/or 24 hours prior to racing. Post-race replacement electrolyte therapy is beneficial
  • Ensure enough staff is available in the paddock and following unsaddling to provide extra help in bathing and cooling out
  • Bring a bucket with ice, sponge and scraper to the paddock
  • Immediately after race, apply plenty of water following unsaddling AND THEN remove/scrape off any excess water (water remaining on horse’s back will hold in heat and inhibit cooling)
  • Apply cold water and/or ice to the neck and between the legs (location of large blood vessels)
  • Soak blinkers and fly sheets in ice prior to placing them on horse

Signs to Watch For:
Preventing Heat Problems_2

  • Staggering, weakness, stiff gait (similar to tying up), extreme exhaustion – can progress to rearing, falling and scrambling to rise even leading to seizures, coma and death
  • Shaddow, uneven respiration, “thumps”
  • Dry and/or congested appearance of gyms +/- delayed Capillary Refill Time (>3 seconds)
  • Increased temperature that is not returning to normal (>106°F)
  • Heart rate remaining elevated (>60 beats per minute)


  • Notify a veterinarian immediately – in severe cases where a horse is staggering or weak, it will need immediate veterinary care including medication +/- IV fluids
  • Continue to apply cold water to the horse, scraping warmed water off frequently and reapplying cold water (water remaining on horse’s back will hold in heat and inhibit cooling)

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