Barn Hacks and Tips to Beat the Heat
Hot weather: many people around the world dream of it. Summer days are associated with taking a break, lounging on the beach, and eating delicious ice cream. However, the story is different for equestrians, especially those living in a constantly hot and humid climate such as the one found in Singapore. The heat and humidity can quickly become too much to bear for both horse and rider. However, not all hope is lost because there are several ways to make time at the barn more pleasant no matter the temperature outside.
Start by thinking through your ride times. Early mornings and later evenings tend to be accompanied by cooler and generally more pleasant weather than midday (Bogenschutz). Other than thinking about what time you will ride, make a plan about what you will work on and stick to it. This will help prevent overriding and make you more efficient. Remember, it’s always better to end on a good note earlier rather than to keep drilling. If you will be riding during midday, limit your working time to around 25 minutes and watch for signs such as flank heaving or extreme nostril flaring (Lyons). Give your horse time to walk it out, around ten minutes is considered a normal recovery time. Additionally, for both horse and rider, do not skip out on sunscreen (Bogenschutz). It may seem fine to go without it while riding, but the aftermath may be enough to fill you with regret for weeks.
Never underestimate the power of water, and not just for drinking purposes. One trick you could do with water is wetting your hair before putting on your hat or helmet (preferably with vents) (Bogenschutz). This will make every breeze cooler and help with those heat induced headaches. Speaking of helmets, consider purchasing a wide helmet brim for additional facial protection for those extremely sunny days. Water also comes in handy when paired with a towel. Consider buying a cooling towel such as the Frogg Toggs Chilly Pad Towel in order to wipe yourself dry after a good ride or simply any time you sweat (Bogenschutz). Another alternative is getting any towel available and using either a bucket of water or a hose to dampen it. That will help get rid of the sticky sweat feeling. Don’t skip out on hosing your horse (and maybe yourself as well). Start by hosing the horse’s neck and chest first because the jugular vein is in the neck, so you are essentially cooling the blood going to the heart, thus lowering the internal body temperature (Lyons). When the horse has been working particularly hard, an alcohol bath may aid in quickening heat dissipation, but will dry the skin if done too often.
Besides making sure both you and your horse are refreshed during and right after the ride, it’s also vital to ensure that your horse will be comfortable well after you leave the barn. If your horse is going to be turned out, especially in a field which lacks adequate shading, you are in charge of making sure your horse stays safe. A mesh fly sheet which has ultraviolet (UV) protection can double as both a shield from the sun and insects while allowing for ventilation. Fly masks may also be necessary with the sheet, especially for horses that have nonpigmented regions on their face (e.g. eyes of Paint horses), as their skin is more prone to sunburn. In addition to these extra measures of protection, limit your horses' turn out on especially hot days to a maximum of four hours per day (Lyons). During these limited turn out hours, it is best to check for signs of dehydration. This includes making sure that the gums have a pink color and are wet to the feel, pinching the skin and ensuring that it quickly goes back in its place, and checking the respiratory rate (a normal respiratory rate for a mature horse is around eight to twelve breaths per minute) (Lyons). If the horse is exhibiting any signs of dehydration, take him inside, hose him down, and then scrape off the water (leaving water on the horse causes an insulating effect that makes him/her warmer). If the hose water is not cool and has no effect on the horse, ice bags and towels come in handy. Put the ice bags in the towels for a couple of minutes and then place the cold towels on the back of your horse. Be sure to monitor your horse's condition and take quick action when it comes to cooling down.
The work with managing heat doesn’t end inside the cool shade of the barn. One of the most important ways to prevent problems with heat is by ensuring that the horse is drinking enough and replacing electrolytes within the body (which the horse loses through sweat) at a fast enough rate. This is done by giving the horse constant access to water and a salt block (Lyons). An alternative to a salt block is a water bucket mixed with electrolytes. The horse knows what it needs by instinct, so a person’s job is to simply be observant and be ready for replacements. A horse of average weight drinks around 18 to 40 liters, so check your horse’s access to water as often as possible, no matter if the water is fed through buckets or automatic dispensers (Lyons). Not only will you know if your partner needs more sooner rather than later, but you will also be more aware if your horse is drinking enough (this is of course more difficult to do with a traditional water dispenser). Within the entire barn, keep the air flowing by opening your windows and doors. Fresh air paired with fans (out of the horse’s reach), allows for a cooler environment and also helps control insects, as a wind flow makes it more difficult for them to fly. Horses will be grateful even for the littlest things done to make their lives easier.
Heat is a challenging subject to deal with and there are days when it feels like no matter what you do, it is just way too hot. During those days, it is best to leave your horse without a ride in the prime of the heat, and spend your time making sure your horse is comfortable in his/her environment. It may seem like a waste of another day of practice, but considering the repercussions caused by riding in extremely hot weather, it would be in both your horses and your best interest to avoid intense physical activity during those days. Your horse will thank you for it!
Bogenschutz, Emily. “12 Tips for Surviving Summer at the Barn.” Horse Illustrated Magazine, EG Media Investments LLC., 12 June 2015, https://www.horseillustrated.com/horse-community-12-tips-for-surviving-summer-at-the-barn.
Lyons, Carey. “Help Your Horse Beat the Heat.” The Horse, The Horse Media Group LLC., 18 July 2019, https://thehorse.com/120128/help-your-horse-beat-the-heat/.