Let’s Discuss: Your Favorite Ways to Beat the Heat for Summer Riding

Summertime temperatures are already the norm in many parts of the country: what are your favorite ways to keep yourself and your horse cool while riding in the summer heat?

A nice cooling bath for Chuck the Percheron after a warm drive. Photo by Kristen Kovatch

It’s finally here — after what felt like a particularly long winter, at least in my individual corner of Horse Nation, warm temperatures and long days have finally arrived. Whether you’re lucky enough to enjoy long summers or the warm months are fleeting in your neck of the woods, it’s important for both you and your horse to stay cool and healthy.

“Hot” can be pretty relative, to a certain extent — I live in a fairly cool climate, where anything about 85 with high humidity feels like actual hell on earth. I realize right now as I type this that there are going to be plenty of readers rolling their eyes and laughing, perhaps preparing to screenshot and email me a photo of the local bank thermometer reading 90s or triple-digits. I’ll just casually mention that my hometown also got 296 inches of snow this winter, and I think we can probably call it even.

While horses can definitely acclimate to local climates — there are breeds of horses that developed literally all over the world, including the desert — it’s still important to monitor him closely as temperatures rise. A few basic common sense guidelines should shape your riding in hot weather:

  • Make sure your horse is fit enough for the task at hand (pulling your overweight horse out of the stall and taking him for a six-hour trail ride in the middle of a heat wave is not advised)
  • If possible, avoid riding when the sun is highest — usually between 11 AM and 4 PM
  • Ensure your horse is well-hydrated with free access to clean water. Consider a salt supplement or free-choice salt lick
  • Make sure you spend adequate time cooling down your horse after exercise

Individual horses may handle the heat better than others — as an example, I know my Thoroughbred is naturally better acclimated to the heat, plus fitter, than my heavy draft horse team. This summer, I’ll likely be working my drafts early in the morning before work or in the evening when the sun is on its way down and air temperatures are dropping; Jobber is a little more versatile for when he can happily go for a ride.

I’ve never been one for a lot of high-tech solutions for the summer heat — largely in part because summer here in the north is so fleeting that I know by mid-September I’ll be starting to layer up already. Most of my heat coping mechanisms simply involve moving my riding times to early morning just after dawn or evening as the sun is setting. I do have a couple of moisture-wicking tops that I’m coming to appreciate, and I always make sure I’ve got some sunscreen on if I’m riding when the sun is at its highest.

What are your hot weather strategies, Horse Nation? From cooling towels on your neck to extra-wide helmet brims

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