Summer is in full swing…and so is the heat. If you are anything like me, you worry about your horse outside in the scorching temperatures while you sit in your office wrapped in a blanket because the air conditioner is blasting. Today I want to go over some tips to stay cool and safe this summer in the saddle.
Duh, right? I know, we have been told that 6-8 glasses of water for humans is not enough, and we always need to drink more. Yes, I do encourage drinking as much water as you and your stomach can handle throughout the day, it will help you stand up to the heat better when you are riding. However, the horses need to drink ample water as well. The best way to do this to always make sure they have a clean, full water trough available to them. It would be best if the water trough was in a shaded area and not heating up in the sun all day. Having a horse drink cold or cool water will lower their internal temperature. Another way I encourage horses (and humans!) to drink water is electrolytes. I give my horse a scoop of electrolyte powder three to four days a week. If he worked up an extraordinary sweat after an evening ride, I may opt to give him a scoop before he goes out for the night. This will greatly encourage him to drink water.
A great idea to keep your horse cool is to hang a homemade Popsicle in his/her stall. To do this, simply freeze your horses favorite treats (carrots, apples, etc.) in a cup with Gatorade, lay a piece of bailing twine or string in the cup before you freeze it, and hang in their stall or on a fence. Not only are you encouraging them to drink, but you are cooling them down in the process. Voila!
A very clever trick to cool a horse after strenuous exercise is to dunk towels in ice water and lay them on the horse’s back while they cool out. Of course, they make products for this type of thing that may stay on better than a towel. They are called cooling blankets and can be found at most tack shops. The idea is the same, dunk the blanket in ice water and let it sit on your horse for a while. For humans, Kerrits has a similar products such as the ice fill headband, shirts, and more.
This sounds counterproductive, I know. The last thing you think about when getting dressed for a 90 degree day at the barn or ride is long sleeves. However, long sleeve shirts will protect you from the sun. I do not mean to grab your heavy flannel in the heat, either. I absolutely love my Ariat Women's Sunstopper Quarter Zip-Top. It has UVA/UVB protection and keeps me cooler by shielding the sun. As a cheaper, everyday option, stores like Target and Walmart sell light weight long sleeved workout clothes. I was lucky and found a nine dollar long sleeve shirt at Walmart with mesh sleeves. It is breathable and cool, and offers more sun protection than a short sleeve shirt or tank top.
Ride Early (or Late)
Disclaimer: I am not a morning person! In fact, I am getting cranky just thinking about waking up at 4 or 5 something in the morning to ride. In fact, my alarm clock looks like this on those mornings. However, riding in 70 degrees at 6:30am is a whole lot cooler than riding in 95 degrees at 5:00pm. The worst part is waking up, but—after your first ride with a nice breeze and less sweat (and people there!) you will be hooked, I promise.
There are times when I arrive to ride after work and my horse is sweating profusely in his stall. I strongly recommend hosing your horse off to bring down his temperature as many times a day as you feel it necessary. Many times, I will hose him before and after riding. However, if it is that hot, it is better to ride first thing in the morning, or later in the evening
Heat Stroke Symptoms
If you are going to ride in the summer, it is wise to know the signs of heat stroke and how best to react if your horse is displaying any symptoms. The signs of hyperthermia/heat stroke are:
Elevated temperature (105-108 degrees F)
The first and most important thing for your horse is rapid cooling of his/her body. The horse should be sprayed with cold water while waiting for the veterinarian to arrive. Applying an ice pack to the horse’s head will also help bring down their temperature. Encourage them to drink water, but be sure to control their intake to prevent laminitis. If your horse has suffered heat stroke, they will need 7-10 days to recover and be reconditioned gradually. To be on the safest side, the horse should NOT be asked to perform strenuous exercise while the weather remains hot. I hope you found these tips on staying cool useful. Now, go to bed so you can get up early to ride!