Is it too hot to ride?

With summer upon us, temperature is always on our minds. It is something we really need to think about for the health of horsebeinghosedour horses and ourselves.

I came across a simple formula one can use to access the type of riding you might think about doing on any given day based on temperature.

Here is a mathematical formula using temperature, humidity, and wind that can be used as a guideline for determining when it’s too hot to ride:

Air Temperature + Relative Humidity – Wind speed = Answer

  • Less than 130: All go – horses can function to cool themselves assuming adequate hydration.
  • 130-170: Use caution – a horse’s cooling mechanisms can only partially function as intended. Some calling management procedures will be necessary.
  • 170 and above: Stop – a horse’s cooling mechanisms can not and will not function adequately. All cooling procedures will be necessary to keep the horse out of serious trouble.

When riding in the heat it’s important for both horse and rider to stay hydrated. Make sure you both have plenty to drink. On those hot days pay attention to how you feel, and close attention to any distress your horse may be in. Consider electrolyte replacement for both horse and rider, lighten your workout, take frequent breaks, and be sure you both cool down properly.

A shaded riding arena can lower the overall temperature and lessen the impact of riding in direct sun.


If your horse does get overheated, remember that research at the Atlanta Olympics showed that the best way to cool a horse down quickly is to use cold water (ice water) with the sponge & scrape method. Do not leave the water on the horse since it heats up quickly & can actually slow down the cooling process- scrape the water off and apply more- repeat till the horse is cooled off.

*the  most effective areas to cool a horse are the poll, jugular vein, femoral and carotid artery…

An overheated horse is an unhappy horse. He needs to be cooled down quickly to avoid medical complications. Follow these steps to help him:
•    Move him to a shady spot.
•    Take his temperature, heart rate and respiration rate.
•    Compare all three rates to his usual ones and call your vet is they are abnormally high.
•    Set up fans at a safe distance from the horse if you have them available.
•    Hose cold water on his belly and underside.
•    Hose cool to tepid water over his back.
•    Never pour or hose very cold water over large hot muscles or his back.
•    Scrape the water off with a sweat scraper as you go.
•    Offer the horse a few sips of tepid water.
•    Take his temperature again in 10 minutes. If it isn’t dropping, call the vet immediately.


(from Horse Owner’s Veterinary Handbook, 2nd Edition by Giffin MD and Gore DVM.)

Heat Stroke is a dire emergency! Horses sweat for a reason. As the sweat evaporates, it removes heat as well. When it is very humid, this process can be inhibited. So heat stroke is more common on humid days because the horse cannot cool off properly.
Symptoms include: A sudden increase of sweating, elevated rectal temperature, fast heart rate, flared nostrils, rapid breathing. If breathing is higher than the heart rate, the horse is severely overheated. Muscle cramps, tremors, stiffness, and not wanting to move, tying up, depressed, weak, not wanting to drink water, and usually dehydration is also a problem.

CALL THE VET! Vets need to be involved during this process. Until your vet gets there, you can begin cooling your horse off by moving the horse into the shade and spray repeatedly with cold water. Apply alcohol sponges to the neck, flanks, and lower extremities. Set fans up on the horse. Allow the horse to sip water as he begins to become interested in drinking. The vet can administer enemas and IV Fluids to help the horse come back under control.

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