Oklahoma is the hottest place I’ve ever lived, y’all. Temperatures regularly stay above 100° F, and it can get very humid. The wind also blows constantly (the musical was not lying), which somehow makes things even worse. It’s like having a hair dryer pointed at you all the time.
Here are my top ten tips to make summer riding productive and enjoyable for you and your horse:
- Don’t skimp on the sunscreen! This is kind of obvious, right? I’m absentminded and sometimes forget to put it on before I head to the barn, and I always regret it. I’ve started keeping a bottle at the barn and a tube in my tote bag! My favorites? Coppertone SPORT AccuSpray for my body & Neutrogena Ultra Sheer for my face.
- Stay hydrated! Another obvious tip, but so, so important and very easy to forget. Drink water often, but don’t be afraid to bring a little powered Gatorade to mix in if you’ll be at the barn or at a show all day. Electrolytes are important. Y’all know I love Nalgene bottles: they’re ultra-durable, big, and easy to clip to your saddle on a trail ride.
- Ride early or ride super-late. In the summer, the sun rises around 6 AM. I find that it stays tolerably cool out until 11 AM or so. If you’re not a morning person, plan on riding late. Super late. A couple of years ago, I was working a evening barrel racing series. On the hottest days, it wouldn’t feel cool until at least an hour after the sun went down, around 9:30 PM. If you’ve got a lighted area, go for a late-night ride!
- Ditch the tall boots. I ride in tall boots every ride; they’re comfortable for me, and I like training in what I’ll show in. That said, in the summer, tall boots are hot. Bring a pair of paddock boots, cowboy boots, or another sturdy shoe to change into after your ride. You’ll be so much more comfortable doing barn chores when your legs aren’t encased in leather. (Some of my friends ride in their paddock boots and breeches; I’ve never found that comfortable!)
- Wear technical fabrics. We all know sunshirts are amazing; don’t be afraid to look outside the equestrian world for them, though. Lands’ End has a big selection of moisture-wicking, UPF protective shirts starting at $35. Don’t stop at shirts, though! You can find breeches, socks, and gloves in these types of fabrics, too.
- Invest in ice packs. If you wear a safety vest when you ride in the summer, buy some small ice packs like the Cryopak Flexible Ice Pack. Freeze them, and stick them between your vest and your shirt. You’ll feel cooler, and the flexible packs won’t get uncomfortable while you ride.
- Scrape your horse! One of my favorite things about riding in the summer is that I can hose my horse down after riding. Clean and shiny, right?! Just make sure you’re using a sweat scraper on your horse! Excess water on a horse’s coat makes them hotter instead of cooler, which is the opposite of what you’re going for.
- Get fit. This goes for you and your horse! Both horses and humans cope with heat better when they’re in good physical condition. If you and/or your horse aren’t in the best shape right now, take it a little easier in the summer heat until you’re in better condition.
- Summer tack. Invest in some summer saddle pads. Toklat makes a line of half pads and contoured pads made with their Coolback lining; it allows for rapid heat dispersal and breathability. If you’re a regular half-pad user, buy or make a couple of baby pads; they’re thinner and lighter than regular pads!
- Know when to pack it in. Put safety first for both yourself and your horse. Keep an eye on the heat index (temperature + humidity). When it’s over 120, your horse’s ability to regulate his temperature decreases. Learn the signs of heat illness in humans and in horses. Don’t endanger yourself or your horse!
What would y’all add?