Summer Horseback Riding - How Hot is Too Hot?
We are officially in the dog days of summer and it is HOT out there. Many equestrians do their summer horseback riding in the morning to avoid the heat. That’s great, but it’s still crucial to know how much heat your horse can handle.
How Hot is Too Hot?
Humidity plays a large role in whether or not it’s too hot to ride. If you live in a dry area, you can get away with going out in much higher temperatures than in muggy areas. The basic rule of thumb says to add the % humidity to the temperature. For example, 95 degrees plus 15% humidity is 110. If your total is over 130, it’s too hot to ride.
However, it’s important to understand that this calculation is just a guide. It’s important to know your horse and what it’s acclimated to. A horse that is acclimated to 70 degree days would probably have a hard time in the conditions discussed above, while a horse that’s used to 100 degrees and 40% humidity would think it’s a cool fall day.
Humidity places such a significant roll in how hot your horse is, because of the way horses regulate their body temperature by sweating. When the air is muggy and moist, a horse can’t cool their sweat nearly as fast as when the air is dry.
If you’ve recently moved to a hotter or more humid climate, take it easy on your horse this summer. It will take a full year for them to totally get used to their new environment, and you are acclimating too! If you are in the same climate you’ve always been in, your horse will be well adjusted and as long as it’s healthy, can probably handle some work.
Know Your Horse
Have you ever walked up a hill on a hot day and been totally winded? Your horse experiences the same thing. If your horse has respiratory issues, even just mild allergies, you will want to be especially careful about the heat because this scenario will be magnified.
Be aware of your horse’s overall fitness. The heat of summer is not the time to decide to get your horse into shape. This is best done in the spring so they are properly conditioned to be able to handle the summer heat. An overweight horse has a much more difficult time regulating their temperature than a performance horse in optimal condition.
If you are lucky enough to have a covered arena or shaded trails, you can probably get away with riding in hotter temperatures than if you are in direct sunlight. Whenever you ride in hot weather, pay attention to your horse. If their breathing becomes labored for a prolonged period of time, slow down and let them rest.
Pay attention to the intensity of your rides and keep your workouts lighter on the hotter days. Your horse AND your body will thank you.
Whenever you ride in the heat make sure your horse has plenty of access to clean water and shade when you are done. Always make sure they are properly cooled down before you leave the barn. Stay cool and happy summer riding!
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