The Do's and Don'ts of Summertime Riding
Troxel Athlete, Rachel Gagliardi, is a member of the Champion Barrel Racing Team and Reserve Champions in Pole Bending, Breakaway Roping, and Goat Tying in the Central Pennsylvania Youth Rodeo Association. She has been riding since the age of 8 and loves everything about competition. Here, Rachel shares important tips for protecting you and your horse from the summertime heat.
- Stay Hydrated – Drink LOTS of water, Gatorade or your preferred alternative (like coconut water) to stay hydrated. When it’s hot outside, your body uses water in the form of sweat to cool itself off. So, it’s vital to keep fluids inside your body to keep cool and stay healthy. Also, be sure to give your horse plenty of water too!
- Don’t Overheat – When it’s hot outside, it’s extremely easy to overheat. Pay attention to signs that your body might be dehydrated or experiencing heat exhaustion. If you experience symptoms such as headaches, weakness, dizziness, or nausea, you could be suffering from heat exhaustion (WebMD.com). The most important thing to do in this situation is to take a break and get out of the heat. Find the nearest shady place or an air-conditioned room to help revitalize your body.
- Use Cooling Towels – Placing a wet towel around your neck when riding is a great way to cool off your body from the summer heat. When I ride on hot days, I like to use a hyper-evaporative cooling towel. My towel, when wet, allows moisture to evaporate and cools rapidly to provide heat relief. It really makes a difference!
- Don’t Forget to Eat – Riding requires a lot of energy, which means your body is using up its stores of glucose. It’s important to make sure you have enough sugar to produce energy. So, always eat before and after you ride. My favorite summetime snack is fresh berries! They’re full of natural sugar and antioxidants and of course, they taste great. In addition to a sweet snack, I usually take a granola bar or some trail mix to provide my body with a source of sodium. Sodium (salt) helps act as an electrolyte and positively impacts muscle function.
- Ride Early in the Morning or Late in the Evening – Try to schedule your ride times so they don’t fall in the middle of the day during peak heat. Limiting your time in direct sunlight can help prevent heat exhaustion and sunburn. You’ll be thankful you did, and your horse will too!
Be sure to watch your horse closely during the summertime too. Heat stroke can affect horses in the pasture, as well as horses being worked. Symptoms of equine heat stroke include: increased heart and respiratory rates, increased or absence of sweating (Note: a lack of sweating in extreme heat can mean a severe health condition), increased body temperature and/or lethargy.
If your horse experiences any of these symptoms, bring him/her to a place to cool down. Utilize cold water and a fan/breeze circulation to help regulate their body temperature.