Many, like me, enjoy riding in the sun, and we may tend to forget while enjoying the ride, that our horses overheat much quicker than we do. What should we know as we enter the hot summer riding season.
Firstly, a good beginning is to be aware and keep a record of your horse’s vital statistics. A horse’s normal temperature is anywhere between 99 and 101.5 degrees. The normal heart rate for an adult horse is 30 – 40 beats per minutes. The respiration rate, for an adult horse is between 12 – 25 breaths per minute. Remember, that the more fit the horse, the slower the pulse and respiration. A good test for dehydration is to pinch the skin on the horse’s neck. The skin should return to the flat and normal position within 3 seconds. Another test for dehydration is to press your finger on the gums of your horse causing a white area. The pink color should return in 1 second. I like to keep a statistical log on my horse and I routinely check their vitals weekly. If you do something similar, you’ll have a very good understanding of your horse’s pattern.
It is a hot, humid day and you are riding your horse moderately through the trails, or in the arena. You may be surprised to know that it only takes 17 minutes of moderate intensity exercise to raise your horse’s temperature to dangerous levels. That is three to 10 times faster in your horse, than you, a human. So remember that horses feel the heat much worse than you do.
A higher temperature, rapid respiration rate, weakness, dry skin and erratic behavior are all signs of heat stress and exhaustion. If the body temperature of your horse increases from 99 to 105, the working muscles can reach as high as 109, a temperature in which proteins in the muscles literally being to cook. So, it is very important to take care when riding your horse during hot days. If you would like more summer riding tips, check out my article “Hot Summer Riding” on Tack and Talk, but in the meantime, enjoy the sun!