Hot Weather Riding Tips
The long, sunny days of summer means more outdoor riding! Some summer days are very hot and humid. This can cause concern over the potential for heat-related health consequences - not only for our horses but for ourselves.
How hot is too hot when it comes to riding? How can you keep your temperature regulated while working in the barn or riding? Here are some suggestions for preparing you and your horse to deal with the summer heat ahead.
For the Equestrian:
Wear light-coloured clothing when working around the barn or riding outside. Light colours reflect sunlight, where as dark colours absorb it. Another benefit of wearing light-coloured clothing, particularly if you ride on trails, is that you can more easily spot ticks crawling on your clothes before they have an opportunity to attach to your skin. Light-coloured clothing also helps repel mosquitoes.
Our bodies perspire to help us cool down. To aid in this process, look for summer riding apparel in a variety of technical fabrics that allow your skin to breathe. Look for fabrics that offer temperature or moisture management by wicking perspiration away from your skin.
Many riders favour riding tights for summer riding. They're made of very lightweight, moisture wicking, and stretchy technical fabrics, and are available in both knee patch and full seat styles.
There are even certain styles of socks and gloves are available with moisture wicking properties. Many styles of helmets have built-in ventilation features to help keep you comfortable.
For showing, there are many lightweight and breathable show jackets now on the market. Ditch the heavy, wool coat for newer show jacket technologies in order to help keep you cool at horse shows.
On the really hot days, make sure that you drink plenty of water- your body needs it to function properly. Did you know that you not only lose moisture through perspiring, you also lose it through exhaling as well! Lots of people aim to drink eight, eight ounce glasses of water per day to combat dehydration. Don't wait until you feel your mouth becoming dry to begin to drink, (you're already dehydrated if you're thirsty) and watch for other signs of dehydration such as headache, hunger and fatigue. Beverages containing caffeine and lots of sugar will not help you stay hydrated.
For the Horse:
Calculate and consider the heat index on any summer day that you plan your ride. The heat index will give you a good guideline to establish for working your horse.
Humidity represents the percentage of moisture saturating the air. You can find out the humidity percentage (as well as the heat index) from your local weather reports. Many reports include this information once a heat wave settles in.
In combination with the heat index, consider your horse's fitness level and condition. If your horse is fit, has no serious respiratory or medical concerns and has been working regularly as your summer season set in, then they are fairly well equipped to be worked appropriately on a hot day. Include lots of walk breaks during your ride with time for your horse's breathing to return to a normal rate.
Conversely, if you horse only works sporadically, or is old, overweight, coming back from an injury, has a serious medical condition or has just transferred into your area from a cooler region, then you might want to consider skipping your rides on the hottest of summer days.
When in doubt, don't hesitate to reach out to your veterinarian for advice.