It’s important to cool horses on a hot trail rides. Your horse has a great ability to cool himself, but even the fittest horse can dehydrate and suffer a heat-related illness if you’re not alert to the signs.
Before The Ride
1. Be sure your horse is fit. A well conditioned horse is less likely to overheat on a long ride. Prepare your horse with regular exercise for up to four weeks prior to hot summer trail riding.
2. Teach your horse to drink along the trail. At home, offer water from a variety of different containers. Whenever possible, allow him to drink out of streams and ponds.
3. Know your horse’s baseline heart rate and respiratory rates.
During The Ride
1. Once on the trail, stop at hilltops. Your horse will work the hardest when climbing hills. Let him rest at the top, under shade if possible, and take advantage of any breeze to cool down.
2. Take frequent water breaks. After riding for more than an hour, encourage your horse to drink. Be aware of the signs and symptoms of dehydration.
3. Cool him down by sponging water along the underside of his neck and down his lower legs.
4. Check his heart rate after long climbs. After a ten minute rest, his heart rate should decrease at least 25%. Allow his heart rate to return to 60 to 70 bpm before starting out again.
5. Monitor your horse’s respiratory rate along the trail. Normal rates (in breaths-per-minute) are 4 to 6 at rest; 20 to 30 at an easy pace; as high as 60 after exertion.
Important: If your horse’s respiratory rate exceeds his heart rate, continue to rest. If this condition doesn’t resolve within ten minutes, return to base and contact your veterinarian. This could be a dangerous condition.
With planning and common sense, hot weather trail riding can be safe and fun. Head out with the proper supplies and knowledge to keep cool horses and cool riders!