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Let’s Discuss: How hot is TOO hot to ride?

At what point does riding in the heat and humidity go from merely miserable to dangerous for horse, rider or both? Do you have a set temperature above which you won’t ride?

Top: A post-ride photo of my horse, Esprit, on a muggy Tennessee day. I thought I’d gotten out to ride early enough–it was about 9:30 a.m.–but clearly I was still too late! Poor dude.

It seems like everyone has a different system for determining whether it’s too hot to ride.

A reader recently posted this on Horse Nation’s Facebook page:

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My eventer friend Holly Ratcliff shared another useful formula, similar to Cheryl’s but also factoring in wind speed, from the Birmingham Dressage and Combined Training Association on her blog a couple summers ago:

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Read her full blog post here.

Scientists have chimed in as well.

You may have seen this fascinating article from the University of Guelph circulating around the Internet last month: “When the Rider is Hot, the Horse is Hotter: Prof says horses feel summer heat 10 times faster than people.”

In it Prof. Michael Lindinger, an animal and exercise physiologist at the University of Guelph, explains, “It only takes 17 minutes of moderate intensity exercise in hot, humid weather to raise a horse’s temperature to dangerous levels. That’s three to 10 times faster than in humans. Horses feel the heat much worse than we do.”

The reason, he says, has to do with horses’ increased muscle mass, less-than-efficient sweating mechanisms, and the higher concentration of salt in their sweat.

Read the full article here.

Personally, I’m no good with numbers or science, so it’s more of a gut-feel thing: If I’m miserable, I assume my horse is even more miserable, and we’ll adjust our ride accordingly, for instance trading in a training ride for a quiet walk in the woods.

Better yet, I’ll try to avoid the heat altogether, riding first thing in the morning or in the evening when things are starting to cool down. One summer when I was a working student in Ocala, we got up at 4 a.m. to ride under the lights–we’d be finishing our last horses by 10 or 11, and then we’d head back inside for an afternoon nap!

It seems like everyone has a different heat-beating strategy, ranging from keeping an ice bucket and sponge in the ring to simply taking summers off! What’s YOUR formula (scientific or otherwise) for deciding when it’s too hot to ride?

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Esprit: Now THAT’S more like it!!!

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