When is it too hot to ride your horse?
This is a question with no hard and fast answer (of course). Instead, it’s a question whose answer has a lot of components. As a very general rule, you can gauge if it’s too hot to ride by adding the actual temperature to the percent of humidity. For a 90 degree day with 85 percent humidity, the total is 175, not to mention a very bad frizzy hair day. If that number is 140, 150, 180 or above, it’s too hot to ride. I say 140, 150, or 180 as those are the numbers that I came across in my research.
Not a huge fan of this nonsense. Time to skip riding.
So what else do you need to think about since there’s no definitive “magic number”?
- Your horse’s fitness level. The high performance sport horse that is ridden six days a week at top levels can usually cope with heat much easier that the weekend warrior horse that is sedentary all week and then worked on the weekends.
- Your horse’s health issues. Your horse is fit, but he has heaves, allergies, anhidrosis, or other health issue that can affect his respiratory system and overall recovery rate. Time to take it easy! If your horse is a bit chubby, or even downright fat, he’ll have a terrible time trying to regulate his temperature with the extra weight.
- Your farm’s amenities. Are you riding outside in the blazing sun, or is the arena covered and nicely ventilated? Sure, you have a hose and a cross tie for a shower after a workout, but is it shaded? Or do you have access to a ventilated area with shade? What about fans? Factor in how easily you can cool your horse off. (Remember that it’s not the water from a shower that does it, it the evaporative cooling as the water dries, hence the benefits of shade and fans to help this process.)
- The intensity of the work. You may be able to modify your horse’s exercise schedule during hot and humid conditions. No need to gallop cross country, how about a trail ride instead?
- The time of day. I love to start my day early - so I can ride before things heat up. Twilight or later is also a great time, beat the heat by going early or late! High noon is asking for trouble.
- How long your horse has been in the hot, hot climate! If you live in Canada and travel to Florida for the winter, you will leave the icy cold and arrive in a sauna. There needs to be an adjustment period for your horse. And probably you, too!
- Is your horse already a bit dehydrated? Check his vital signs and hydration level before you tack up. If he’s feeling a bit icky, time to skip the hot weather work out and call the Vet instead.
When in doubt, play it safe and talk to your Veterinarian about what is best for your particular horse. When is it too hot for your horse?