How can I, the human, stay cool at the barn?
We spend a lot of time with tongue in cheek chatter about how Grooms and horse owners live at the barn, freezing and baking. Because it’s true. It can also be dangerous to work in hot conditions, for both humans and horses. Let’s tackle staying cool, and what happens when we don’t.
There are a group of heat related illnesses that people can get, they start with heat cramps, progress to heat exhaustion, and end up with the potentially deadly heat stroke. Some people can actually skip the first two steps and just end up with heat stroke.
Heat cramps are just that - involuntary spasms of major muscles, usually in the core or the legs. This is your first sign to make some changes and get out of the heat and hydrate. You can move on to heat exhaustion, when you can’t stop sweating profusely, you may vomit, have nausea, get a headache, and become lightheaded. Moving right along, the exhaustion turns to heat stroke when your temperature regulation fails and your body temp is 104 or more. You may stop sweating, you are fatigued, weak, dizzy, your skin may turn red, you have seizures, confusion, and sometimes you hallucinate and can lapse into a coma.
Of course none of this is to be taken lightly - get medical attention ASAP for any of the above conditions!!
So how can you avoid a heat related illness when you work outside all day, in the heat and humidity, doing physical labor? Some tips here:
- Plan your day so your high intensity labor and exercise is early morning and late evening. Do your hand walking, paddock raking, riding when it’s cooler and save the middle of the day for your low impact chores or chores that can be done inside the barn. Clean tack, place orders, groom and bathe the horses, sweep the barn aisle, clean stalls in the comfort of the shaded barn.
Turn these bad boys on.
- Dress accordingly. Skip the dark breeches and denim jeans, go for light colored and loose fitting pants or shorts. I personally like to skip the shorts, I’m not a fan of sunscreen + dirt + dust + hay + hair + sweat. For your top, loose and light and perhaps long sleeves. This will definitely keep your arms cooler. Hats that provide shade are good, too.
- Hydrate. Water, water, water, water. Caffeine is dehydrating, thus making your insides drier. If you have a fridge and freezer at the barn, pop some bottles in the freezer for a while, they will partially freeze and stay cool longer.
- Snack frequently. On the good stuff! This article here has great ideas for eating smartly at the barn during the day.
I keep my sunscreen in the fridge! Also keeps it from becoming a runny mess.
- Use the fridge for “other stuff”, too. Store your sunscreen in there, freeze some wet bandanas or towels for your neck or under your hat, anything that can go on your person can be made more refreshing in the fridge and freezer.
- Use fans. If you can, spritz off in the wash rack and then stand in front of a fan. Just as we would cool off our horses, it’s time to do ourselves a favor too.
- Speak up. If you feel a headache coming on, or you are light headed or crampy, time to get help. Sometimes the horses DO NOT come first, speak up and get help.
How do you stay cool in the summer?