Guest post: by Jeannie Choate
Summer is blazing here in Texas. There are precautions you can take to make your weekend rides enjoyable. If you work in an air-conditioned area most of the time, you might not realize how quick you can dehydrate and just “give out” while riding. Your horses stay out in all kinds of weather and they are adapted to surviving with Mother Nature.
Here are some horse riding tips to help you survive the heat:
1. Wear the proper clothing: Cowboys and buckaroos wear cotton clothes that breathe and long sleeve shirts shield you from the sun and can be actually cooler than a sleeveless or short sleeve shirt. Lightweight light colored cotton is generally best to keep you cool. Wear a hat that has a wide brim. This protects a lot of you from the sun, and is almost like having a parasol over you! Of course if it is extremely windy you will need to tie it down with a yahoo string or opt for a baseball cap. Wear a cotton bandana soaked in cool water with 3 to 5 ice cubes rolled up in it when the heat is over about 93 degrees. They melt fast but will keep you pretty comfortable for a while. The secret is to keep your bandana wet. I will even wet my head with cool water about every hour or so and then replace my hat. This keeps me ready to go some more.
2. Saddle up for comfort: If your horse will be saddled for a long period of time or it is just plain hot when you do saddle up, wet your horses’ back with tepid water before putting on the saddle. This keeps his back cooler, keeps your saddle blanket or pad cleaner and even the girth will feel more comfortable for the horse. Because these areas being already wet your horse will stay cooler. Plus, not as much sticky sweat will accumulate around the girth and at the corners of the saddle pad, which can irritate and make sores on the horse when ridden for extended periods of time.
3. Stay Hydrated: The old southwest Indians would tell you to “drink until you slosh” It is hard to keep enough fluids in your body when the temperatures are near or over 100 degrees. I like to mix mangosteen juice with my drinking water. It seems to satisfy my thirst better than straight water. I will fix up some bottles at home, freeze them and then carry them with me wherever I am riding. I drink as they thaw. I have some friends that are horse shoers by trade and they are the ones that got me on to mixing the mangosteen juice and water in frozen bottles. Be sure to offer your horse tepid water a few times during the day. A carrot or two during the day for your horse keeps him hydrated and enzymes working in his stomach.
4. Eat right: To keep up your strength and energy be sure you fill your body full of probiotics and vitamins. Most of us do not have a good appetite when the temperature soars. Eat light healthy foods in small amounts. such as carrots, boiled eggs, celery, nuts, dried fruit and nutrition bars. Sugar and caffeine can make a lot of riders ill while competing or out on the trail. Take a note from your horses. You may notice they eat slower and seem to want less when the temperatures are high. If they are big eaters anyway, you may want to cut your horse’s ration a bit for their own sake. Tough love I call it. Watching someone riding an extremely fat horse on a hot day is pure torment to watch and an unhealthy experience for the horse. I will take sea salt and carrots with me just for my horse and feed according to the intensity of the ride and depending on how many days in a row I am asking a lot of my horse. I may put a bit of salt and carrots in every meal.
5. Pace yourself and your horse: Depending on your conditioning and the condition of your horse, pace yourself, as the day gets hotter. Lope your horse in the early morning or after a break. As the temperature gets really hot walking and some trotting will keep both of you from becoming overheated. When you and your horse are hot, slow down and let the sweat dry for a while. Re-wet your bandana and head. If your horse seems pretty hot, take a sponge and wipe his shoulder and neck down with tepid water from water in a tough. Find a few spots during the day with shade for you and your horse to rest for 30 minutes to an hour or more, depending on your activity. This will let both of you relax, cool your head and body, and revive for another few hours out in the sun.
These tips will keep you and your horse going during a horse clinic or at a competition all day.
My training is in the Buckaroo Way and I offer consultation services to those who believe in partnership of horse and rider.