Editor’s note: In many parts of the country the ‘Dog Days of Summer’ are in full swing. Since temperatures are still in the low to high 90’s we thought a reprint of this 2001 story would be appropriate.
In “Biloxi Blues,” Matthew Broderick once lamented, “Boy, it’s Africa hot.” If this describes what summers are like for you, with little escape from oppressive heat and humidity so high it fuses your breeches permanently to your legs, it’s hard to get motivated about riding. While most competitions happen in the dead of summer, you can still keep your cool while training for your upcoming shows. Here are some ways to stay motivated during the hot summer months.
Choose your ride time wisely. Some parts of the South and Southwest never see temperatures drop below 80 degrees, even at night. Choose the coolest time that makes sense for you-just as the sun rises, or perhaps late evening, after 5:00 p.m. when the day finally begins to cool down. However, don’t jeopardize your or your horse’s safety by riding at night unless you have access to lights (or are experienced).
Dehydration is one of the most dangerous situations you can get yourself into during hot weather. Replace lost fluids at regular intervals. Sports drinks have been around for decades now, and newer versions such as Propel water eliminate the sticky aftertaste.
Be sure to monitor your horse’s hydration as well-it doesn’t do any good for you to be well hydrated if he’s not.
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Beware of sunstroke. You can overheat easily without being aware of it. Outfit yourself in moisture wicking, breathable fabrics, such as Coolmax. These are designed to keep you dry while still allowing airflow to your body.
Wear sunscreen. I’m sure you’ve seen veteran riders on the circuit whose skin resembles their saddles more than a face in the mirror. Not only will sunscreen protect you from a bad burn, you’ll be preventing several types of skin cancer. And although it may seem like a warm idea, you can have further protection by wearing a riding shirt with long sleeves. You’ll find that you will not be any warmer if you choose the right summer fabric.
Wear a ventilated helmet. Today’s schooling helmets sport more than a dozen or more vents, and these air to flow through over your head to provide cooling comfort. If you are bare-headed, the sun will beat mercilessly on your cranium, while a traditional velvet helmet can act like a dome oven on your head.
After you finish your ride, you’ll probably give your horse a rinse. Turn the hose on yourself too-at least on your pulse points, such as your wrists. This will get your body temperature down quickly. If you’re not worried about your hairstyle (and who is when heat soars into the high 90s?), wet your scalp down quickly and don a baseball cap.
At The Show
Showing is the time that you really need to keep cool under pressure. Hunter and dressage classes usually require that you wear your hot jacket-and most competitors would rather pass out than have that article of clothing removed from their sweaty bodies, even when the judge says jackets are optional. Do yourself a favor – select a “summer weight” wool jacket or synthetic blend that can keep you cooler. Also, keep your jacket off until your class is called. New velvet helmets are now integrating vents around the “button” on top, so keeping your cool has never been so easy as this summer. Just follow these tips and the only thing that will be sizzling is your performance.