The beginning of summer marks hot weather for many riders in the Northern Hemisphere. No matter when summer hits your area, chances are you may have some warm weather to adjust to. While horses are hardy creatures and can adapt to harsh conditions, it’s important to know exactly how extreme temperatures and summer exercise affects their health.
Using Hylofit’s heart rate monitor for horses, horse owners can have more peace of mind by collecting regular heart rate measurements throughout the summer. Elevated heart rates in heat can be cause for concern, so monitoring this should be a part of your routine.
Let’s talk a little about how to best care for your horse — and what signs of heat exhaustion to look for — during the hottest times of the year.
Caring for Horses in the Summer: Proper Cool Down is Essential
During the hot summer months, horses’ body temperatures can rise quickly. In an effort to cool itself, the horse’s body will elicit a respiratory response, quickening breathing as a way to cool its brain and central nervous system. The horse will also employ evaporative cooling through sweating. For this reason, riding in a combination of high heat and high humidity is not healthy for horses. The amount of moisture in the air prevents the evaporative cooling process of sweat from working properly.
After stopping exercise, you should make efforts to bring the horse’s temperature down. Measuring temperature, pulse, and respiration can give you an idea of where his body is in the recovery process. Monitor for a slow recovery rate (generally, a horse’s heart rate should be below 100 bpm within 2 minutes of exercise and at or below 60 bpm within 10 minutes of exercise) and/or an unusually high resting heart rate.
Horses in Hot Weather: Hydration is Key
Due to the amount of sweat horses produce, replacing those lost fluids is an important part of summer heat care for horses. Horses will require more water when under heavier workloads, and remember that some horses may have a hard time drinking water away from home. Try to bring water from home on trailer trips, and find an electrolyte or fluid balancer that your horse will drink easily.
Plan Your Rides with Kindness
It’s true that some riders who compete may be at the mercy of a show’s schedule. And it’s true that both horse and rider must practice in “uncomfortable” situations to prepare for this potential. However, horsemanship must come first and for this reason many riders will plan their riding schedule around the hottest times of the day. Riding in the dead heat isn’t pleasant for anyone, and it can be potentially very dangerous for both of you.
Take precautions such as not parking your trailer in the direct sun while you’re away from it, using fans, and offering frequent water during the summer to ensure your horse stays comfortable and able to perform at his best.
When Is It Too Hot to Ride Your Horse?
Generally speaking, if the combined temperature and humidity are above 180, it’s probably not a good idea to ride. Always take humidity as well as factors such as your horse’s age and fitness level into account before hopping in the stirrups.
Use your Hylofit heart rate monitor to keep track of your horse’s and your own heart rate during your hot weather rides. This data provides real-time feedback on overexertion. Riding is done much by feel, but it’s also reassuring to have data to back this instinct up.
One way to use Hylofit to inform your summer riding is to set a Ride Alert for a specific heart rate or zone. For example, let’s say that it’s pretty warm and you don’t want your lower-level event horse working too hard. Set a Ride Alert for the highest zone or heart rate you’re comfortable with him reaching, and Hylofit will alert you if and when this is reached.
When in doubt, always put your horse first and remember there will always be another day to ride. Happy hot riding!