One thing about the Internet is that it brings people together from many different areas and climates. Riders down South are shivering in front of the fire through the winter months while they procrastinate going outside to work their horse if it would only stop raining! Riders as high up as F.N.Q., Central Australia, Darwin etc. Are wiping the sweat off their brows, swiping flies and loping circles in the dust.
Heat, humidity, bugs… I love summer!
Summer brings with it heat (and in many places, humidity), mosquitoes and other flying nasties, and ground baked to the consistency of concrete.
Riders north of the borders have to contend with extreme heat and humidity so high that the sweat pours off them before they even get on board their horses. Of course, riding in the evening means sharing the space with millions of mosquitoes or worse, sand flies (midges), so it is essential to keep a good stock of fly and mosquito repellent, both for yourself and your horse.
Water is a life saver
The one thing that will keep your horse comfortable and safe in the summer is water. As horses sweat, they lose that water from their system and if they are not able to replace it they can quickly become dehydrated.
Always make sure that your horse has plenty of clean, fresh water available to drink especially when you’re at a show or clinic.
Electrolytes are important too
Another way to combat dehydration is to add electrolytes to your horse’s diet. This is best done by making a mineral block available at all times. You can also add electrolytes in his water, giving him two buckets of water (one with and one without electrolytes), making sure that he has a choice. Some electrolytes can be sprinkled on the feed.
The Pinch Test
Teach yourself how to do the “pinch test” to check your horse for dehydration. Pinch up a small area of skin on the neck and time how long it takes to return to normal.
Check your horse on a cool day when you know he is not stressed to give you a baseline to work from. Then, when you have been working him, you will be able to monitor him against that baseline, if it takes the skin noticeablly longer to return to normal, he is becoming dehydrated.
Learn your horse’s vital signs
It is a good idea to take your horse’s vital signs and note them down somewhere. When he is rested and cool, take his temparature, pulse and respiration.
Generally, horses’ temperaturewill be from 100 to 101 degrees Farenheit ( 37 – 38 Celsius). A rise over 38c -102f is abnormal and a temperature of over 40c -104f is serious and you should call your vet.
The horse’s pulse at rest will be from 36 to 42 beats per minute. That rate will increase considerably following stress, but should return to normal within 10 to 15 minutes if the horse is rested, provided he is fit.
Respiration should be around 8 to 15 breaths per minute at rest.
Armed with these vital signs you should be able to easily tell when your horse is stressed by the heat and humidity.
Travelling Or shipping your horse
I remember one year arriving at one of our long distance shows, one of the trainers arrived with their horses, unloaded them and put them in their stables. It was quite a hot day, the horses had travelled a good 10 hours.
Within an hour one had colicked and another had tied up or in layman’s terms, muscle cramping.
I believe in giving horses electrolytes before during and after travelling to ensure they are well hydrated and holding on to prescious minerals for the journey.
I would drop down their windows and offer water with added electrolytes in it. It’s a good idea to get you’re horses accustomed to drinking electrolyte fueled water well in advance of hitting the road, nothing worse than them refusing to drink because of a foreign taste in the water.
I don’t recommend letting them guzzle it down until it’s all gone either otherwise you too might have a colicky horse on your hands. Best to stop often and let them sip, have a bit of a stand still (good time to clean the poo out of the float while they have a spell).
Don’t kill em with kindness
Another thing I would definitely recommend is when you do arrive, before you put them in a yard or stable with a fat bag of lush hay and a big drink of water is to take them for a walk around for five or ten minutes, moving around NOT stopping every three strides for a bite of grass.
Once that’s done and you’re happy with how they look in their demeanour, their bright, alert, looking around and are not tucked up in the flank or have patchy sweat in weird, random places then you can put them in their stable or yard…
Wait! Don’t take that headstall off just yet. I would suggest you tie them up safely in the stable for say 15 to 20 minutes naked, you don’t want sheets etc on them just yet and tie them in a fashion that they can’t dive their heads down to eat their bedding. This whole exercise is a precautionary measure on your behalf to help ensure your horse doesn’t colic or anything drastic by:
- Walking them on arrival will stretch their legs while they nut out where they are and that all is well with them;
- Overheating with sheets and rugs on, you can really go over them with your eye and your hands making sure they arrived safe and well;
- Rolling, it’s not a good idea to allow your horse to roll immediately after arriving he may colic through excessive rolling;
- colic through gulping down too much water at once and quickly;
- eating their bedding as many do when they arrive.
“If you can’t stand the heat…
What’s that saying…
“If you can’t stand the heat, Get out of the kitchen?”
Not this time. Stay in the kitchen and get as acclimatised as you can!
I normally would avoid riding during the heat of the day in the summer, both for my comfort and for the comfort of the horse, however, training up for a show that you both will be competing in over the hot summer months, it’s not a bad idea to gradually build up your riding time to include a bit of riding in the middle of the day.
Many’s a time I have been to a show where it’s been really hot, even hotter indoors than it is out and competitors have dropped their bundle because they have not acclimatised themselves or their horse to riding in the middle of the day, they have always trained either early morning or early evening for their comfort…big mistake come show day.
It’s not like you order your class to be held in the cool of the early morning or the cool of the evening. Granted, some classes will be held at those times but you can back it in, you will more than likely be waiting around for a trail class in the middle of the day while the sun is beating down relentlessly. So be smart and acclimatise both you and your horse to cope with the heat of the day.
Hard ground makes for hard ride
Another summer hazard is ground baked so hard that it resembles concrete. Hard ground is hard on horse’s legs. Concussion injuries are more prevalent in summer, as horses are trained sometimes on sun baked hard ground.
All weather surfaces, such as sand, bark chips or other proprietary arena surfaces can alleviate this problem.
If you don’t have or can’t afford an all weather surface for your arena, you can compromise by using wood shavings from your horse’s stable (remove the droppings first) and lay a track around the rail of your arena to create a riding track that will be comfortable to work on.
This solution may also help out in winter when you are dealing with ankle deep mud.
Remember to do this…
- keep your horse and yourself hydrated with water not sugary drinks for you the rider, they will dehydrate you quicker than you can say “I’m going home it’s too hot”.
- Be wise with your riding times, it’s oftentimes better to make the decision to ride more often in the one day and for short periods of time rather than a hard hot hour;
- loosen that girth if you’re riding again. If you have plenty of time before your next ride or your class, hose your horse down, now you don’t need to throughly wet him down all over if your class is coming up and you want to keep him clean and respectable looking. Hose between his front and back legs and down his legs, this is where, the same as on yourself – have you ever noticed you can cool yourself down by running cool water over your wrists? You can do the same with horse just don’t whizz through it, leave the hose run down his legs and over his chest and any sweaty areas. As long as you do the vital pulse areas you will help in his cool down.
- Prepare for the elements and chill 😎
BOOK – FROM GO TO WHOA
TRAINING YOUR OWN HORSE