Contributed by: Valerie Mellema
We're in the heat of the summer now in East Texas. Anyone else feel like we just skipped spring and went from rain to hot and humid with no nice days in between? There are a lot of misconceptions and myths when it comes to riding in the heat of the summer. Here we're going to break some of these down and give you some tips and insight on how to deal with these hot temperatures.
Is it too Hot to Ride?
If you don't have access to the weather report, it's best to follow this rule of thumb: "If you're hot, your horse is hotter." If it's too hot for you to be outside and exerting yourself, it's definitely to hot for your horse. According to University of Guelph Professor Michael Lindinger, "It takes only 17 minutes of exercise in hot, humid weather to raise a horse's temperature to dangerous levels. That's three to 10 times faster than in humans." Scientifically, there are a few factors to consider and a simple formula. Temperature + Humidity % - wind speed = answer
My favorite site for weather is Wunderground.com. Today's temperature is 88.7 degrees F. The humidity is 63% and the wind is 9mph. So, here's our formula: 88.7 + 63 – 9 = 142.7
What does this mean?
130 and under – Ride while you can! 130-170 – Take caution. It's hot out there people. Give your horse and yourself plenty of water. 170+ - Too hot to ride. Your horse won't be able to cool himself.
The key here is not so much the actual temperature outside, but the humidity as it really plays a factor in the overall heat. Now, saying all this, I've seen a different version of this formula as well that puts the cut off at 150 and doesn't factor in the wind speed. Obviously, it's best to use common sense, but this can be a guide for when you really need to ride and train your horse, but your just not sure if it's too hot.
Okay, so let's say you've decided to ride or perhaps you're at a show and you need to deal with the heat regardless. Here are a few tips for managing the heat.
Tip #1: Let Your Horse Drink
Your horse needs to drink all that he can to stay hydrated. Many people have the misconception that allowing a hot horse to drink water or cold water will cause a series of health issues from colic to founder. This is not true. You both need to drink as much as you can and stay hydrated. Hot horses will drink 2-5 gallons of water.
Keep a fresh bucket of cool water in your arena and let your horse have water breaks in the heat of the summer. If you're away from home, you may have a hard time getting your horse to drink, particularly if the water tastes different or is chlorinated. Some barns flavor their water at home so they can flavor it at a show as well to ensure the horses will drink.
Tip #2: Find Some Shade
Not everyone has a covered arena, but if you can find one with good airflow, take advantage of it. It's much easier to deal with the heat when you're not in the direct sunlight. Being in direct sunlight adds 10 to 15 degrees to what the temperature "feels like." If you don't have access to a covered arena, look for areas where you can ride in the shade for at least a part of your ride, like when you're cooling out.
Tip #3:Proper Cooling Out
After riding, walk around in circles until your horse's breathing returns to normal. Try to find some shade or a breezy area where you can do this. Once your horse is breathing normally, untack and give him a hose down. This is another area of misconception as well. Many believe that you're not supposed hose a hot horse with cold water or put cold water on the large muscles. This is false. Your horse won't suffer from tying up or have a heart attack. He will be very grateful!. The colder the water, the more quickly the horse will cool down. The heat transfers from the horse's body to the water. When you scrape the water from his body, you'll notice the water is significantly warmer. Spray again and scrape. Continue until the horse is cooled down.
Tip #4: Fans
Air circulation in the barn will help keep the shade bearable even when the humidity is high. Box fans on stalls will keep horses that are kept indoors cool and a large fan at the end of a barn aisle is also great for keeping the air moving. Nothing feels better than standing in front of a huge fan after a hot ride! You can also use them to cool your horse while you untack and groom. Even dogs and cats will be happy!
Tip #5: Spray Down Before Hauling
If you’re traveling with your horse on a hot day. Spray them with the hose and let them dry in the trailer. With the windows open in your trailer, the water will help cool them as you drive.
Tip #6: Don’t Forget about Yourself
It’s easy to be focused on taking care of your horse and forget that you need adequate fluid as well. Freeze some water bottles to ensure you have fresh cold water and let them defrost throughout the day.
Let us know if you have any more tips for keeping your horses happy in the summer!