Strategies to beat the heat in the saddle
and ride like the cool kids
The dog days of summer have arrived! If your anything like me you’ve got a whole routine of things you do to keep your horse cool and comfortable before, during, and after your ride. Right down to airflow tack, UV sheets, cooling out under the fans, balanced electrolytes, and hosing down the inside of their legs. But what about you? What are you doing to keep yourself from literally turning into a hot mess while riding in the heat?
Ten ways to stay cool while riding in the heat
1. Opt to ride during a time when your body temp is naturally lower
Our body temperature naturally fluctuates throughout the day so riding during times when your body in naturally lower can make a big difference in how quickly you start heating up. If you’ve got a normal sleep schedule you’ll be running the warmest between 11 am and 6 pm.
2. Sun shirts keep the sun off your skin and wick away moisture so the body stays cooler
It might seem a bit odd to go with long sleeves instead of a tank top when you’re trying to stay cool. but after trying out my first moisture-wicking sun shirt this summer I’m hooked. They keep the sun from heating up your skin and are vented to still wick away moisture so you actually feel cooler wearing them than going sleeveless. If you like the tailored look I’d check out these from Noble Outfitters or if your up for a looser fit Aftco is the way to go.
3. Eat cooling foods
Eating water-rich foods such as cucumber, watermelon, strawberries, and leafy greens can keep you hydrated and move through your system with less effort than a more complex meal.
4. Avoid foods that cause the body to produce more heat
Foods that are harder to digest will actually cause your body to heat up more while it works through them. High-fat foods and complex carbs tend to take your digestive tract to the gym so to speak, saving them for your post-ride meal can be helpful.
5. Ride during cooler times of the day
I live in Wisconsin and here the weather fluctuates pretty significantly. Rather than just assuming that it will be coolest during a certain time of day I’ve learned that it’s much more helpful to check into things like predicted humidity, wind speed, and temps to determine when it will actually feel best for myself and the horses.
6. Keep a cooling towel on hand in case you do get overheated
If you’re not familiar with a cooling towel you should definitely check them out. At first glance, they appear to be a basic shammy type towel but once they get wet the reaction between the water and the material causes them to stay cold for hours. They are super handy to pack on long trail rides or long days at the show when you may not have a spot to escape the heat.
7. Have a well-planned barn fan strategy
Thoughtful placement of barn fans can make a huge difference. If your pulling in air from outside rotate where you set your fans up throughout the day to bring in air from the shaded side of the building. If you have ceiling fan be sure that they are set for summer so they aren’t pushing hot air down on you and the horses.
8. Hydrate with more than just water
If you’re not sure you need to worry about electrolytes, check out this article to get the scoop on how your body uses them especially in the heat. Good quality coconut water is a great way to get your electrolytes in while avoiding all the weird stuff that’s in sports drinks. I shouldn’t even have to tell you but I will anyway-avoid caffeine and alcohol as they will dehydrate you.
9. Keep your extras on ice
If you’ve got a long day of working and riding in the heat keeping extra socks and sports bras in a ziplock in a cooler with an ice pack can be your midday saving grace. A fresh cold pair of socks make everything better even unloading hay.
10. DIY ice water mister
Sometimes the simplest things work the best. Keep a spare clean spray bottle at the barn to fill with cold water (ice is a bonus if you have any handy). Mist your hands, arms, face, and neck after your ride to quickly cool down without having to step away from your horse. Give him a couple of squirts while you’re at it too 😉
Bonus tip: The temperature in the shade and the sun are actually the same but because of the way solar radiation gets absorbed it can feel 10-15 degrees hotter in the sun. Planning riding around the shade can make a difference between feeling like its 80 degrees vs feeling like 95 degrees.