For the passionate equestrian, summer is a time for breeches instead of beaches. Thus, training and showing under high heat temperatures is probably the daily circumstance for riders and their horses during this time of year. In order to maintain a good performance level in the sport it is essential to know a few facts and tips about riding in hot weather conditions. Otherwise, a dive into the liverpool during the ride becomes more likely than a dive into the swimming pool after the ride.
Riders: Before, after, and even during training! The amount of water in liters needed for an active day may be calculated by multiplying one’s human weight (in pounds) by 0.03. For example, if a rider weighs 150 then he or she must drink an average of 4.5 liters in an active day (150 x 0.03 = 4.5).
Horses: Water must be available for horses at all times. Although they only need around seven gallons per day during the winter, this number nearly triplicates as temperatures rise, to 20 gallons per day. Besides drinking water it is important that horses are hosed down with cool water to lower their temperature after their workout. If a horse’s temperature rises above 103.5 then the animal is experiencing heat stress which may have detrimental effects.
Riders: There are plenty of natural sources of electrolytes for humans. High potassium fruits like bananas, avocados, dates, and coconuts are a good source of electrolytes. Gatorade is also known for its electrolyte content, however, coconut water is the healthier alternative.
Horses: Although grass, hay, grains, and various feeds contain most electrolytes, sodium and chloride are hard to replenish in hot temperatures as horses sweat them out to cool their bodies. These electrolytes may be found in salt blocks, salt supplements, or electrolyte supplements.
It is crucial to maintain a high level of awareness during high temperatures in order to prevent heat stress and/or dehydration. If prevention fails, however, there are two simple ways to know if a horse is dehydrated:
- Skin-pinch test: Pinch a portion of the horse’s shoulder skin, pulling it away from its body and then release it. In a hydrated horse, the skin flattens in less then a second. In a dehydrated horse, the skin takes 2 or 3 seconds to return to its original flat form.
- Gum test: Press fingertip against horse’s gum and release. If the horse’s gum takes longer than two seconds to return to its natural pink color, there’s a high possibility of dehydration.