Coping With The Heat 

How is everyone getting on with this hot weather? Yes I know it’s not that hot compared to the Sahara, but in a country that is designed to keep heat in, it can be unbearable.

The heatwaves never last for long and then we’re moaning about how grey, or chilly, it is. I guess it’s not long enough for anyone to acclimatise to it, yet just long enough to scupper any plans.

Some people bring their horses in out of the worst of the heat. Like anything, I think this depends on if your horse is happy standing in their stable, even if others are out. Or will they stress and so get even hotter? Are the stables cool? Brick stables are lovely and cool at the moment. It’s also important to have some air flow – perhaps a window at the back of the stable. I’ve not been bringing Otis in because there isn’t enough air flow through the American Barn where his stable is, and combined with the body heat of his neighbours, he just ends up dripping in sweat. So I’d rather he was out and able to take advantage of any breeze and be able to move around to create an air flow. 

Some of the fly rugs, especially the sweet itch ones, can be thick and so they get hot in them, which means it might be worth switching to a very light fly rug or leaving them naked.

Exercise. In this heat no one wants to do any, but with obese horses or upcoming competitions, or even just needing some time away from “life” we still need to keep up some of our exercise regime. But change it; be flexible. Ride bright and early before the heat becomes uncomfortable. I’ve been getting up early on hot days and schooling two horses in the cool. If you can’t ride first thing then you could hack or do some groundwork (then you get to wear shorts too!). The horse’s that I’ve had to ride in the warmer part of the day have had hacks in the shaded woods. I’ve also had to juggle my order of riding so that the horses who struggle in the heat get ridden first, and the hacking horses a bit later. 

You can also change what you do with them, so less cantering and jumping, and more lateral work in walk and trot. A couple of weeks ago I was supposed to school a horse but it was unbearable in the school, so we went into the woods and practised lateral work, transitions, improved the walk, and had a much cooler workout. If you are schooling, keep an eye on your horse’s behaviour: is he getting out of breath more easily? Is he sweating excessively? Finish a session early, fit in more walk breaks, or have a long cool down in the woods to make sure they don’t get uncomfortably hot.

Then of course is the hosing down myth. I stand by my routine of holding the hosepipe over both of us until the water no longer feels warm  on our skin and then letting us both drip dry.

It’s also important to make sure the horses don’t get dehydrated, so adding more water to their feed, offering them water before and after a workout, making sure they have access to cool water – sometimes trough water can get a bit warm which puts horses off drinking. This is another reason why I don’t always like changing their routine so that they’re in during the day; it might put them off drinking or having dry hay in the stable can help dehydrate them. But it does depend on individual horses because some love being in their stables and are very calm, and others can cope with being outside in the heat better than others so aren’t particularly happy in. I would just try and make sure they have access to shade. And of course keep your water bottle topped up and to hand. 

If you have a lesson booked, it’s usually worth chatting to your instructor. If they can do later or earlier to avoid the heat then everyone will be happy. But even if they can’t, they’ll adjust their lesson plan and speed of the lesson to accommodate how you’re both coping. And if you give them your bottle of water they’ll keep offering you it. 

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