The warm weather is finally here! If you’re like me, you waited very patiently while winter dragged on and on to get back to normal riding. And you probably braved the winter to some degree as well, but chances are you missed out on some rides due to the weather. With the return of mild weather comes horse show season, trail rides, beach rides and regular exercise for you and your horse. But, soon enough the heat waves will come and there may be days that are just too hot to ride.
Read on to find out how to decide when it’s too hot to ride your horse and ways to beat the summer heat.
When Is It Too Hot To Ride?
A general rule of thumb you can use as a guide is to add the actual temperature plus humidity. If the total is above 180 then riding is not recommended. However, this is a vague approach because each horse is different.
You will need to account for your horse’s age, health and other factors to make a responsible decision for your horse. You can always ask your veterinarian for their recommendation based on your horse’s physical condition and any chronic health issues they have.
Consider Your Horse’s Overall Health & Fitness
If your horse is young, healthy and fit he may be more tolerant to the heat than other horses. For example, senior horses and overweight horses may have a more difficult time in the warm weather. If your horse is very overweight and becomes hot or has trouble breathing from doing light exercise, you may opt not to ride during the heat of the day.
Alternatively, if you have a young horse that is healthy and green, the heat may work to your advantage as many horses are calmer on warm days. If you determine your horse is healthy enough to work in the heat of the day based on the heat index and your horse’s condition, be careful not to over do it.
Ride Early In The Morning Or Late In The Evening
One way to still get your ride time in during the summer when the days tend to be hot and humid is to ride before or after the worst heat of the day. Some days it gets hot early but you can still ride while the temperatures are more manageable.
Riding in the early mornings is a great way to start the day too! Or, you can save your ride for the end of the day when the sun is starting to set, especially if you have access to an arena with lights. An evening ride after a long day is a great way to decompress!
Can You Ride Out Of The Direct Sunlight?
Another way to squeeze in a ride on a hot or humid day is to stay out of the direct sun.
If you have access to an indoor arena, a shady outdoor arena or a shade on the trails you may still be able to ride. The important part is to monitor your horse to make sure he’s not becoming overheated. Staying out of the direct sun can help even when the temperatures rise.
Plan The Intensity Of Your Ride
In the peak heat of the summer consider the intensity of your horse’s workout. Even if your horse is fit and healthy, the hot humid air can be tough to breath. Consider lowering the intensity of your horse’s rides on hot days and plan for extra breaks.
Keep your ride short and sweet and/or take time in between exercises to let your horse (and yourself) catch his breath.
Keep Your Horse Hydrated
Hydration is important for all athletes or anyone exercising in the summer heat. So make sure to offer your horse plenty of water before and after your work out. Some veterinarians suggest not allowing your horse to gulp down too much water at a time right after a work out and instead allowing them to drink small amounts of water over time. You can keep an eye out for dehydration by checking for the following signs.
Signs of dehydration:
- Appearance Of Gums: Your horse’s gums should be pale pink and moist. If they look dry, pale or reddened it’s possible your horse is dehydrated.
- Capillary Refill Test: Press down on your horse’s gums gently with one finger, when you release your finger the gums will be pale where you pressed. The horse’s gum color should return to normal within 1 to 2 seconds. If it takes longer then your horse may be dehydrated.
- Skin Pinch Test: Pinch a small piece of skin from your horse’s neck or shoulder and then let go. When you let go the skin should return back to normal. If it stays tented or elevated for a few seconds or more, then this is a possible sign of dehydration.
Cool Your Horse Out Properly
Properly cooling out your horse should be done all year round even in the winter. However, in the summer time it’s important to make sure your horse cools down all the way after a work out. Ways to cool your horse out thoroughly include walking them after your ride followed by sponging or hosing them down.
Hosing your horse off after a hot and sweaty ride is beneficial for multiple reasons. Spraying your horse down thoroughly including where the tack was sitting, his chest, inside of his upper hind legs and whole body can help him cool off faster. You can also use a sweat scraper after thoroughly hosing your horse off and then repeat the process of hosing him off again.
Plus, washing off all the sweat after your ride will help to keep your horse’s hair and skin clean and healthy.
Fun Things To Do With Your Horse Instead Of Riding
Who doesn’t want to spend time playing with their horse and pampering him at the barn even when it’s hot? Here are some other activities you can do with your horse instead of riding when it’s just too hot to ride.
- Give your horse a bath
- Hand walk or graze
- Tidy up your horse’s bridle path, ears, legs or any other areas that need clipping, and pull or trim his mane
- Groom your horse thoroughly and take pictures of him
- Practice groundwork exercises
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