Summer is here! Here in Iowa, it felt pretty late in coming. Worse, the honeymoon is already over. The sun is out. Temps are rising. Some days it’s just too hot to consider climbing atop a warm, sweaty animal.
How hot is too hot to ride?
First things first. Generally speaking, you should be very careful with your horse if you add the temperature and humidity readings together and the total is 140 or higher. Also take into consideration your horse’s fitness level, how long you ride, and how hard you ride. Older and younger horses are more vulnerable and need more recovery time.
We’ve discovered that one of the most important factors is actually not the days, but the nights. Are temps dropping when the sun goes down? If so, your horse will cool down at night as well. Here in Iowa, we can get strings of days with no break in the heat. That’s when you have to be extra careful. If you ride several days in a row and your horse can’t cool down in between, you can do real harm.
Give your horse the spa treatment
Okay, so you’ve decided it’s too hot to ride. This doesn’t mean no horse time! There are many things you can do to help your horse feel more comfortable in the heat.
Beat the bugs
Summer comes with bugs! Bugs bite and pester and can cause irritation. Give your horse a thorough grooming, treat bites or raw areas with thuja zinc ointment, cover white skin that likes to burn with sunscreen, and keep a lookout for ticks. If you find any, don’t pull them off with your hands. Use a tick picker and dispose of them in a chemical bath. Use an oil based fly spray to keep the critters at bay a little longer.
Skip the bath
While cool water can offer relief for your horse in the short term, the moisture can actually stay in his coat and cause heat to build as the sun beats down. Especially if it’s humid or your horse doesn’t spend all his time in the shade, a bath can lead to cooling problems while also stripping the coat of the natural oils that help keep the bugs at bay. If you do use water to rinse off sweat, make sure you scrape your horse thoroughly afterwards to remove excess.
Brush, don’t clip
You might consider the natural hair your horse grows in ears, on the muzzle, and on the fetlocks unsightly, but it’s there for a reason! These areas are particularly vulnerable to both sun and pests. Don’t deprive your horse of the protection this hair offers. Do use a flexible rubber curry and stiff brush to keep fetlock hair clean.
Set some groundwork goals
Groundwork can be a blast. This does not mean longing. Whatever you do this summer, do not chase your horse in endless circles without a plan. Effective groundwork can be accomplished entirely at the walk. It may not seem as romantic as galloping bareback through the dew-drenched fields, but it’s an important building block to build trust and communication. Need some ideas? Stay tuned. We’ve got a Getting Started with Groundwork How To coming soon.
Horsemanship via video binge
Okay, so your horse is as clean and happy as he can be in this weather. You’re ready to put your feet up and enjoy a glass of iced tea. Now’s the time to work on you! Fortunately you can steep yourself in horsemanship without even breaking a sweat. We recommend:
7 Clinics with Buck Brannaman
This DVD set is a bit pricey, but it’s worth every penny. With tons of useful information packed onto every disc, you’ll have to watch them more than once to absorb every tidbit. Also check your local library. Ours has these in their collection.
The Horseman’s Gazette
Anyone interested in improving their horsemanship can’t go wrong with The Eclectic Horseman’s video series. Each video contains a selection of short and digestible videos, each exploring an important aspect of riding and handling horses.
So, the website needs a facelift, but we can personally vouch for the service. It’s like Netflix but for horses. When you subscribe, you get access to an entire library of horsemanship DVDs. We recommend anything with Martin Black, Bryan Neubert, Joe Wolter, Richard Caldwell, and Peter Campbell.
Horsemanship via fiction fix
Did you ever wish you could absorb some real, useful, horsemanship tips while losing yourself in a feel-good love story set on a working ranch? Possibly in a bubble bath with a glass of wine for company? Well guess what? You can. The Tipped Z trilogy novels are works of fiction, but the horsemanship is real. Book 1, A Man Who Rides, is available on Amazon and from all major booksellers. For a look at the whole series and a complete list of retailers where they are available, see stefaniwilder.com.
Whatever you do, take heart! Summer doesn’t last long. Soon we’ll all be back in our Carharts overalls and 17 layers of silk and wool…