Is It Too Hot To Ride
 By Winniefield Park   •   5th Aug 2014   •   1,247 views   •   0 comments
Is It Too Hot To Ride

I wonder if those of you in the southern hemisphere get tired of hearing we in the north complain about being too hot? After all, it's approaching mid-winter season, while those of us north of the equator are in the midst the hottest weather of the year. This morning, I was at the barn because the farrier came to trim my mare's feet. When I brought her in, I found she was in a sweat just standing in the paddock. Because she's nervous for the farrier, she was soon drenched, despite being out of the sun and in the cool barn.

It's almost easier for horses to stay warm than it is to stay cool. That same internal furnace, fueled by pounds of digesting fibre, that keeps them warm in the cold weather doesn't do the opposite in the hot weather. On hot days, a horse's internal body temperature can rise a few degrees, even if it isn't working. Add even a moderate workload, and a horse can quickly heat up.

If you plan to ride in the heat, it's best to work up to it. It's not fair to your horse to suddenly go hard when it's not used to at the best of times. Horses that consistently work in hot weather, such as horses ridden in eventing or endurance racing, of course have to work long and hard in the heat. But, your backyard trail horse, who only works on the weekend, will suffer if worked too hard. Ride in the early morning or late evening to avoid the hottest part of the day.

Make sure your horse has plenty of clean, fresh water. This is essential winter and summer. Be sure too that ponies and foals can reach the water easily. Water can go stale and warm very quickly.

If the combination of air temperature and humidity index goes over 104F, or you plan to work your horse hard, consider using electrolytes. This helps re-balance the minerals and salts in your horse's blood stream that are lost when it sweats. Make sure you use ones made for horses and follow the directions.

Shade or shelter gets your horse out of the direct sun and can help lower its body temperature. Your horse may even appreciate spending part of the day indoors, especially if the bugs are bad.

Playing in the water is a great way for anyone to cool down on a hot day. Hosing, sponging and splashing in a safe pond or stream is fun and refreshing. My daughter's pony used to hate baths, until the hottest days of the summer, when he'd run through the spray and then gallop off to coat himself in sand. If you ride into a stream, your horse might want to lay down. Prepare to get wet and be careful.

Learn the signs of heatstroke and dehydration in a horse. This is why it's important to know your horse's normal temperature, pulse and respiration rates and to know how to do a skin pinch test. An elevated pulse and respiration along with a rise in body temperature are signs something is amiss. Sponge the large veins along the inside of its legs, along its neck and chest. Get it out of the sun and watch carefully. If the TPRs don't decline within a very short time, call the vet. A horse that is overheated and perhaps dehydrated will be in serious trouble in a very short time.

Is it too hot to ride? If it's so hot, I don't want to work outside, I don't think my horse should either. I'd rather wait until things cool off. Besides, no one wants to hear either of us complaining.
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