The term “hot” has a different meaning when you live in Texas. People joke about how you can fry an egg on the sidewalk or roads that are so hot, your flip-flops will melt. Well, I’m here to tell you as a Texas summer survivor, both those things are real. Triple digit temperatures partnered with 85-100% humidity makes for a lethal combination for athletes; human and equine. With myself being overly heat sensitive and Joy as well, we’ve learned some tips and tricks to beat the misery.
- Prepare for the sweat fest:
This means making sure you and your horse are properly hydrated, full to the brim with electrolytes, and also aren’t working on empty stomachs. Adding electrolytes and high protein to you and your horse’s daily diet will help increase your heat resistance and help make recovery time easier.
- Stack the cards in your favor:
By planning and adjusting your training according to impending weather, you can better prepare for summer. In other words, suddenly deciding to add hill work or gallop sets into your training routine in the middle of June likely will create problems. Even the fittest horses can take up to three weeks to adjust to more temperate weather. By implementing a tailored conditioning program earlier in the year and gradually building up you and your horse’s cardiovascular fitness leading into summer, you can still train consistently with less chance of heat distress.
- Warm up/cool down:
As riders, we all are aware of the crucial nature of a correct warm up and cool down. During the summer months, these become even more of a dire necessity. Not only do these two things decrease risk of injury or fatigue, they also help the horse return to its normal heart rate and temperature. Ever heard the term “ridden hard, put away wet” for horses that aren’t in the best health? There is a reason for that. My general rule of thumb is either cool out under saddle or hand-walk (after a quick bath) until the horse is dry and proper breathing has returned, if a little winded. No matter the level of horse, a proper warm up and cool down is must to increase/decrease the amount of heat generated by work that will cause problems. In a pinch, ice water or alcohol can be used to help cool a horse down that is having problems in the heat. If that is the case, it might be time to reevaluate your horses ability to withstand the heat by riding early morning/late evening or if possible, keeping your horse somewhere with more shade/breeze.
- Invest in proper equipment:
Who doesn’t love an excuse to add a little to your ROOTD wardrobe? It’s particularly important in the hotter months, as most of us do not have the lovely luxury of a covered arena. As some of our Team Riders have recommend, Kastel shirts are UV protective and also made of a breathable, wick away fabric. Additionally, Ariat and Sport Horse Lifestyle all are all choice picks by our variety of riders from varying climates. Kerrits are another brand that is well known for their durability and wear-ability, including their ice-fill breeches, tops, and scarves. ROMFH has lovely show shirts in fun patterns made from mesh panels and microfiber to make those jacket waived shows classy and cool.
When you’re minding your melon, make sure to wear a helmet with a lot of airflow and venting to keep your head from overheating. Over 45% of body head dissipates through the head, that’s why it gets so hot in an ineffectively vented helmet. For your horse, make sure not to swaddle them in extra fabric that will trap heat and invest in a good hoof conditioner to keep cracking down to a minimum.
- Become Familiar with the Signs of Heat Distress:
Every horse is different when it comes to managing the heat, but knowing the basic signs of distress is crucial. Normally, horses of hotter ancestry (Arabians, Thoroughbreds, etc.) manage heat well, while horses of colder blood or more muscling tend to be more affected by the heat. Horses who sweat more than other quickly become dehydrated and need to be treated with a little more care, but what’s most important is to become familiar with signs of listlessness, discomfort, and raised vital signs. In order to test dehydration levels, you can gentle pinch a little skin at the point of shoulder and see how quickly it returns to normal position. If the skin doesn’t return quickly, this is a sign of at least mild dehydration. Something else to become familiar with is a digital pulse, which can be found on the fetlock, and also temperature. Normal body temperature for a horse is 99-100 degrees, somewhere between 101-103 during exercise. If the temperature goes beyond 103.5 degrees, this is considered overheating and should be treated immediately. Ice water and alcohol as mentioned above can be used in small areas like the neck or haunch, but ice water can over large areas can cause tying-up or muscle cramps.
Whether you are like me, who heat strokes out unless I ride at night, or you are braving the heat to work multiple horses during the day, make sure you’re protecting yourself and your equines. Know your personal limits, your horse’s limits, and how to prepare for a scorching summer. Drink plenty of cool water and remember to protect your beautiful skin from the sun’s harmful rays! Take it from a Texan. Becoming familiar with these five tips will help you make the most of your summer without breaking TOO much of a sweat.
Stay cool, y’all!
Until next time,