Too Hot to Ride My Horse

Summer and/or Florida showed up this past week in Texas, making for some face-melting days of heat and humidity. At first undeterred, I still planned to show Eli on Sunday, but after a long hot day outside on Saturday I could tell I was not at all acclimated to the heat and since Eli had only been sporadically ridden for the past three weeks because of rain and a sprung shoe, I decided to scratch our classes, which would have been in the afternoon when the heat index was about 102F. Maybe other people can ride in those conditions but I can’t.

I thought it might be helpful to share a few resources about exercising your horse in the heat in light of my own brain being so melted that other people’s words might be more clear.

The first is this lovely heat index chart. On Sunday afternoon the temperature was 91F and the humidity had lowered as the day wore on to 65%, making the heat index somewhere between 103F and 108F. More information is available via the National Weather Service.

heatindexchart-650

SmartPak offers some advice about taking all factors into consideration when deciding whether it is too hot to ride.

Pro Equine Grooms, one of my favorite sites for good information about horse care, looks at the time of day, your horse’s fitness level, and the intensity of the work as factors that can help to determine whether it’s too hot to ride.

Horse Network, formerly Horse Collaborative, separates fact from fiction about horses in the heat, addressing both hydration and salt intake.

And last, an enlightening article focusing on how heat affects horses points out that horses are far more sensitive to heat than humans, so their fitness level is extremely important.

bobblehead

There are also some formulas floating around that suggested adding the temperature and humidity together and if the sum is above a certain number, don’t ride. Depending on what the sum is–different sums are out there–it could be too hot to ride, even dangerously hot. Because there is no consensus on the sum and some suggest a number so low that in Texas, we’d never ride, I haven’t linked to any of that because I didn’t find it particularly helpful. Plus I suck at math.

So when do y’all call it too hot to ride and opt to keep your horse out of the heat?

22 thoughts on “Too Hot to Ride My Horse

  1. I definitely remember the summer heat in Texas, but it doesn’t get quite that hot on the east coast. However, if it’s a particularly hot day, I try to ride as early as possible in the morning or late at night, since it’s light until almost 9pm. But if that can’t happen, I usually give Roger a good spa day with the full grooming treatment, and let him hang out in front of his stall fan. I also take the time to deep clean my tack at the barn if my HS soap isn’t melted 🙂

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  2. Thanks for sharing all of these resources! I’m lucky in that we typically get heat and humidity, but not to the extreme you see in Texas.

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  3. I have lived in Kansas for 10 years. We usually get similar temps as Texas, but the humidity tends to be 15% to 20% lower. In any case, I grew up in Alaska and I work indoors. So anything above about 85 I usually struggle with a lot. Yesterday it was 94 with 50% humidity, but it was also pretty breezy, making it tolerable to be outside.

    My horse and pony live outdoors, but have a chunk of their pen that’s very shaded by several trees. So that’s usually where you’ll find Dexter. The pony does what the pony wants and seems less affected by the heat. She’s also chestnut with flaxen mane and tail and Dexter is all black. So I think he’s at a disadvantage just due to his coloring.

    As far as riding, my horse is not sound, so that is not currently an issue. If it’s above 85, I will usually wait until it’s nearly dark to ride, if I ride at all. Many days they just get a hose down and fly spray.

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    1. “The pony does what the pony wants” = truest thing ever.

      A while ago I owned a black horse that was anhydrotic, and in the summer I hosed him off multiple times a day and rode him some time between 10pm and midnight, not kidding. He was on One AC, but that could only do so much. Dexter is a smart horse to stay in the shade!

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  4. I paddocked your ring yesterday, and I can assure you that you made the right decision to scratch. It was BRUTAL, and I was standing in the shade. There was no cloud cover at all on the ring. Good call.

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  5. seems like with most cases of extreme weather in either direction, it can depend a lot on how acclimated the horse and rider are to it. for instance, i’m usually bowing out from riding around 30* in december, but that temp is just par for the course in february. and a day that feels ridiculously hot in june is probably just a typical late august day. so i try not to make general rules on when i will or won’t ride and try to base the decision on how well the horse and i are handling the conditions.

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  6. I would agree that it really depends on the horse and human. I live in Missouri where we get temps in the mid-high ninties and humidity at 80%+ pretty often during the summer months. It’s definitely miserable. I am also a runner, so I tend to have a tough mentality when it comes to weather (cold and hot). However, I will do my best to keep active in the mornings or evenings. I closely monitor my animals’ energy levels during a work-out (I take my pup running with me). If it seems like they are not enjoying the exercise it is probably time to stop. I think it also takes some adjusting, so if someone from up north moved here I’d give my animals a good month of light activity and only mornings or evenings.

    Moral of the story: just pay attention to your animals and your own body’s signals. Is fitting in this ride (or class or run or trail ride) worth an unhappy and unhealthy pet? Probably not.

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  7. It doesn’t get TOO crazy hot here in New England, but if it is above 80 degrees or really humid I will ride early in the morning (usually before work, so around 7AM) or I will just give him the day off. I am paranoid about the weather and check it throughout the week to plan accordingly and fully use the cooler days.

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    1. I check the weather obsessively all week, too! The thing I hate most is being at work all day on a nice day right up until 5pm and storms blow up so I can’t ride. Or having to wait until 8pm to ride because of the heat.

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  8. When my lips stick to the teeth, and mouth just sort of closes like a cottonball, no air moving at all, and temperatures go over 100, with no shade. Yep, I throw in the towel immediately then Our humidity is desert like low here, like death valley low, and also, summer is one long inferno for months, but, over 100 I get dizzy when exercising hard, and of course I figure my horse does too.

    In the summer months, I ride early, a breeze tends to come then, and we have a covered barn to tack up, and a covered arena. If really bad, I rinse her prior, to cool the body, then twice immediately after, with scraping off between to cool. The trick is not to stand still in the arena too, that little wind has to keep moving even if just a walk.
    Summer. Not my game 😦

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