Horse Life

Discussion Board: Riding in the Heat

I live in the Charlotte region of NC, and our summers are long. And hot. And humid. Having grown up in Chicago, I’m STILL not used to the humidity here. It’s icky and it’s awful. I sweat so much I literally carry a towel around with me when I do anything outdoors. Walk down the driveway to get my mail? Get ready for some water works.

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Given that it gets hot here in May, and stays that way until the end of September (or October, some years), if we want to do things, we need to suck it up. But there are a lot of differing opinions on that.

We have those that ride super early in the morning or super late in the evening. I can do neither of those, thanks to the little monsters called my children. If I want to ride, it has to be after work and before after-school care/camp/daycare pickup, giving me a window between 4:30-6 PM every day.
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Then there are those that only ride when the temp/humidity is under a certain level. In July, our average daily humidity level is 72. Which, when combined with normal average temps of 94, sucks. So if I were to go that route, I’d pretty much never ride.

My normal lesson time with Trainer B is 1 PM. That’s about as awful as you can get, but it’d be hard for me to get there earlier and each time I’ve gone there later, traffic has been bad on the way back. 1 PM ensures I don’t have to rush in the morning, and can have a smooth trip back after. So 1 PM it is.

I’ve caught some flack for that. I’ve heard I’m putting my horse in danger, it’s cruel, unfair, etc. I’ve done the research and there are definitely some sources that agree with those viewpoints.

But….

I don’t control ride times at shows. At CHP a couple weeks ago, our SJ time was 1:03, with XC right after. It was 92 with some insane humidity. It was gross.

And…

This is how my horse finished XC:

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He was still full of himself when I pulled up, and by the time we got back to the barns his breathing was normal. Within 10 minutes of being back in his stall, his temp was regular and he was happy to suck down a bucket of water and start munching his hay.

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Just an excuse to post this picture again

He had the next 2 days off, and he showed zero signs of being anything but perfectly fine. And when I got back on after 48 hours, P showed me exactly why he should never get a full 48 hours off.

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We recreated this moment quite a few times.

So. The horse is pretty fit.

Now, if you normally ride when it’s cool out, or if you give your horse the day off when the temp reaches a certain point, I think it’s pretty unfair to then take that horse to a show (or anywhere) and demand it work in conditions it’s not used to.

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July 2017- Working at 1 PM

My typical schedule usually includes:

Day 1: Dressage arena work. I usually pick a test and run through it and then work on specific elements that sucks.

Day 2: Hack 20-30 minutes around the farm. One of the hack days is always very low-key (more like wandering), and the other includes marching up/down hills in the pasture, lateral work around pastures, trotting up the long hill then galloping down the gallop lane, etc. 

Day 3: Jump arena with lots of ground pole work. Have started adding gymnastics to this day.

Day 4: Hack 20-30 minutes around the farm.

Day 5: Lesson

Day 6: Off

Day 7: Usually a goof-off day. Bareback/bridleless/riding in costume/playing with weird objects/filming videos/giving kids pony rides, etc.

On work days, I’m usually on for about 40 minutes, with lots of walk breaks sprinkled throughout. Then he gets to cool off in front of the fans before going back out to the pasture when we’re done. 

So how do you and your horse deal with summer? Do you have to manage them more carefully or do you just suck it up and ride in miserable conditions?

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If I was super picky about when I ride, I wouldn’t have gotten to do this!

31 thoughts on “Discussion Board: Riding in the Heat”

  1. I try to ride early morning when I can which usually is only on the weekends. If I rode before work I’d have to get up at 3 am and nobody wants to deal with me after getting up that early!

    Weekdays it’s 7pm or later depending on dinner. Luckily this summer has seen storms blowing through after work which brings the temps down and kills off the humidity but when that doesn’t happen I hose off before getting on, ride judiciously with a lot of walk breaks and then hose after. When I was endurance conditioning I carried a spray bottle half water, half rubbing alcohol and it really helped cool Gem down. I need to remember to do that for Cruze.

    I 100% agree that you can’t expect them to show in weather you don’t train in.

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    1. Ha, I wake up at 4:30 AM for the gym and am NO fun after 2 PM (until I get to the barn, then I’m fine 😂).

      It’s been soooo dry here, I’d love some rain!

      I’ve heard of the rubbing alcohol/water mixture but never tried it. I think that’s genius to have after a ride or at the finish at shows!

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  2. I think as long as you are aware of how humid and hot it is (And boy aren’t we??) then you are fine. it is not like you are riding for five hours in a lesson with no break, no water etc. I mean yeah that would be cruel and unusual. But 40 min-1 hour or a bit more in a lesson per week plus your rides and hacking does not sound bad to me. I don’t know if i could do it (and I guess I am going to find out in this TN heat, blech) but if you and P are fine with it then it works for you. I know you are always keeping an eye on P and if he was in distress of any kind you would notice it, right. So keep on doing what works for you guys. Interesting post. When I was in PA/DE my barn was 40 minutes away so I only rode when it worked for me time wise…..now that I won’t have a ring 90 percent of the time (but Remus will be in my back yard?), we shall see. I have given myself permission to not stress over riding this summer. Hop on bareback and toodle around the field sure, find a few people to try lessoning with great, but steady riding won’t happen for me until it cools off and we get settled a bit more. But everyone makes their own way for sure. I think you and P are fine doing what works for you!!

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  3. Yea I mean I ride in all weather in all conditions. Like you said about horse show scheduling my philosophy is basically that if I wouldn’t scratch from a show in those circumstances than I better be prepared to school in it too.

    Obvi the critical point here is that we do everything possible to mitigate the negative impact of more extreme weather on our horses. Lots of water, electrolytes if they help your horse, lots of breaks, lots of hosing or sponging off and maybe some breaks to stand in front of a fan lol. But yea. Even in the heat I still ride. And in the cold too. And there will always be people who prefer not to. That’s fine too. Generally tho the horses are fine either way.

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    1. Ya, whatever works for the horse, really. I know there are some that don’t deal with heat so well (like humans!), and then some of it is rider preference. Sort of how some people bundle their horses up when it’s cold because THEY’RE cold, when really the horse is fine 😂

      The one thing I try not to do is hose P off too much. He has not so great feet and the farrier at the old barn finally told me hosing him off every day was why P was losing shoes so often. Now I just sponge the sweatiest parts and let him dry off.

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  4. I aim to ride in the cooler parts of the day, but no longer shy away from hot, hot days. I do what Emma notes and implement every mitigation measure I can to combat the not-ideal circumstances with the temperature: I make sure I’m well-hydrated and the horse is, too, and then am sure to provide ample breaks to let their breathing/HR lower between sets of effort. Every year it gets easier and the horses and myself seem to deal with it better. Honestly, the worst part about it is dealing with the bugs!!

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  5. Once summer fully hits the desert, there really isn’t an “optimal” ride time. It doesn’t cool down really – even at midnight it can still be in the high 80s or 90s (it was like that last year for weeks and that was HARD). So you can either ride when it’s dark and still 90 or when it’s light and 95 or when it’s sizzling hot at 105. Humidity isn’t usually above 12-14% but you can most definitely feel it when it climbs to 17-20%. Most mornings I work at 6 am, and we don’t have lights so there’s not really a morning ride option (plus NO THANK YOU to getting up so early), so my rides are from 2 to 7pm before I can’t ride anymore. It does give me a lot of time, and with Amber getting out 2-3 times a day, most of the time I’m riding when it’s hot at 2 and hotter at 6. I think so long as your horse is fit and used to the weather, as well as working at all times of the day, that’s the key. Exactly as you said you wouldn’t have been able to do your last competition had you never had to ride at 1pm! I actually have a harder time with the heat most days than the horses do, but they’re all good sweaters and it isn’t like we’re cantering for 30 minutes straight. We electrolyte and hose down when we need to if the day is especially hot (hurray 113). We also always keep a bucket of cool water in the arena and a bucket at the cross ties so that any time they’re thirsty as we’re riding and before/after their rides they can get as much water as they want. We often forget water for ourselves! Most of the time tho, it’s just bloody hot and you have to deal with it because there really isn’t an “ideal” time to ride.

    Also, LOVE the new cover photo 😀

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    1. That’s such a great idea to have a bucket in the crossties and at the arena. I’m horrible at remembering to drink myself- I actually downloaded an app on my phone that alerts me to drink water throughout the day so I’m not dehydrated when I get out to the barn!

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  6. I ride as early as possible in the morning because *I* do so badly in the heat. None of the horses I’ve had have had a hard time coping at shows during the summer as long as they’re taken care of correctly. I think as long as you’re smart about it, it doesn’t matter when you ride at any temp. Obviously you’re not doing prelim level gallop sets at 1pm for two hours. Go forth and ride and drink water! 😉

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  7. I absolutely agree with you. You can heat condition horses, you just have to be really mindful as you ramp them up and keep tabs on them the entire ride. I grew up in a place that was Triple Digit heat all summer long, we had little to no humidity though. So that nice hot dry weather I am acclimated. We’d try to be done by Noon back when I was in school, but once I became an adult I had no other choice but to ride after work, and it didn’t cool off until well after 10pm. So free access to water during the ride (horse and rider), school efficiently. Proper warm up and cool down, lots of electrolytes. You are a thoughtful owner, I definitely don’t think you are being dangerous or cruel.

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  8. You’re handling it thoughtfully and smart! Really high humidity triggers my asthma so mornings are hard – at least in the evenings some seems to have burned off. But damn, I definitely gave mine a few days off last week when it was heat index of like 110 because that’s just miserable and he’s not used to it like all the Southern horses 😉

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  9. First off, LOVE that picture! And the video- P certainly doesn’t appear to be struggling at all.

    This is a tough topic for me since Rio does NOT do well in the heat, and currently isn’t sweating. He starts to heavily pant pretty easily. It’s very obvious to me that we have to be super careful. It’s hotter then hell in Texas, but at least we don’t have much humidity in the Dallas area. Keeping him as wet as possible with frequent applications of a water/rubbing alcohol solution filled with ice is the only way we get through lessons ( usually 9 or 10 am). I try to hack earlier (8 am) or in the evening (7 or later). I take it MUCH easier in our hacks. In all our rides I pay careful attention to his respiration and don’t resume work until it has normalized some. I wish heat wasn’t and issue, but it really is for us.

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    1. I know some horses here that have anhidrosis and really can’t do much in the summer. It stinks because our summers are loooong here.

      You’re the 2nd person to mention the water/rubbing alcohol solution, which sounds genius. Especially to have somewhere like the finish flags on XC!

      Good luck this summer!

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  10. Australia is pretty hot, so there isn’t much workaround.

    I start to avoid once it hits 35 degrees (95F) or I will get up and ride about 6am when its much more pleasant.

    As you pointed out though, comps don’t really allow for us to pick and choose ride times so appropriate conditioning is vital.

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  11. Back when I started my blog (and then forgot about it… ha!) I was preparing for my B rating in pony club which took place Labor Day weekend in Monroe (aka hot as fuck) Ratings could potentially be hours long and horrible (lots of discussion, switch rides, etc) so I prepped all summer long by riding at the hottest part of the day. Honestly my horse was fine, I was fine, and all was well bc we were prepared. So basically just like everyone else is saying as long as you are acclimated hot weather isn’t that big of a deal if you’re careful. I’m really liking the sound of the alcohol mix bc that sounds amazing and easy (I did know about alcohol cooling you down faster but never thought about it in a squirt bottle!) Right now I’m not riding (bc of work and Chimi’s foot issues but he’s finally cleared for work!) and dreading the thought of trying to start back up. The heat is horrible!!!!!! Motivation is zero for multiple reasons 😂

    Oh but one of the best ways to cool off in the summer- water gun fights! It’s what we do at camp when it’s just to damn hot and everyone is miserable 🙂 you cool down really quickly!!!!’

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    1. Ya, I’d never thought about putting it in a spray bottle either! Pretty genius.

      Uhhh your motivation for getting back on Chimi in this horrible heat it that you need to hit up Windridge in October! 😂

      Completely agree on the water fights! They are a plenty around here, with 3 boys!

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  12. I am also in Australia and I avoid riding over 35C. In summer I aim for late evenings or early in the morning. I make sure the horses are conditioned accordingly and if I don’t need to ride I won’t. Summer is the down season for us so the horses usually have easier rides or time off.

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    1. Yeah, that makes it a lot easier. Things slow down a bit here in the summer, but it honestly stays so hot into the fall that summer riding is pretty necessary if you want to be ready when the season kicks off in the fall!

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  13. That 1:00 slot is my typical riding time as well as not much else will work for my schedule. I’m usually pretty easy on my horse though and when I am riding without a coach I tend to toodle a lot. We get quite the extremes weather wise where I am (winter, I am looking at you, you frigid bitch) so if we avoided those extremes, there would not be much riding at all!

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    1. Same here! Some winters are fairly mild but then some, like last year, were brutal (for N.C.). I’m definitely easier on P when I’m on my own vs in a lesson, though we take frequent breaks during lessons as well

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  14. it really depends what we’re doing. i usually dont schedule anything for this time of year, because im not about that life lol. so typically my rides are early early morning/late late night hacks and taking it easy. and i usually pray that the heat will break soon.

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    1. Bahaha, I’m not about the winter life. Though I look like a drowned rat pretty much 5 seconds after getting on my horse due to the sweat, I’d still rather ride in the summer than winter

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