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Summer Horse Workouts

By Jeffrey Rolo

Preparing your horse properly for a summer workout is essential not only for his comfort, but quite possibly his health and well-being. Most horse owners are pretty good at watching over their equine partner's health and needs during cold winter months; for example, how many of us would even consider asking our horse to ride on sheer ice? It would be lunacy, and we can all agree on that. Unfortunately the summer poses dangers of its own… dangers that many horse owners overlook since they aren't as readily evident as ice or snow.

One of the keys to fostering a healthy horse-owner relationship is lending your horse the same respect you would like to be afforded. Or to put it more bluntly, put yourself in your horse's shoes before making an unreasonable request of him. If you are uncomfortable in the sweltering heat, you can bet your horse is too.

Here are some general rules to keep in mind when it comes to working your horse during the summer months:

bulletWork your horse during the early mornings or evenings if at all possible. Temperatures and humidity levels are usually significantly lower during those time periods.
bulletHumidity is the enemy. It's healthier to work in 95-degree dry heat than it is to work in 85-degree humid heat.
bulletIf horseflies plague your area make sure you spray your horse down with some fly spray. It's not entirely effective, unfortunately, but anything we can do to protect our horses from those pests is worth it. If a horsefly has ever bitten you then you know how much it can hurt!
bulletKeep the intensity of your workouts down during the hot periods. Even professional athletes that overwork themselves during hot and/or humid days can accidentally kill themselves.
bulletYour horse will almost assuredly develop a sweat during the hot months, but be attentive to his state at all times. If he appears strained, out of breath or is sweating excessively then either reduce the intensity of the workout or call it to a close.
bulletIntense workouts should always be followed by a cool-down period, where you slowly and leisurely walk your horse for several minutes before getting off and unsaddling him. This is even more important in the hot summer heat – do not skip this step!
bulletIf possible, wash your horse down with clean water before releasing him back to his stall or grazing area. Start at the feet and take it particularly slow if the water is cold, since frigid water will shock a hot horse as much as it would shock us in the same circumstances.
bulletDo not allow your horse to eat or drink until he is fully cooled down. Before your horse is reintroduced to food or water, make sure he is no longer actively sweating and that his chest no longer feels hot to the touch.
bulletIt's a good idea to keep an eye on your horse for the next hour or so to make sure there are no signs of colic, particularly if you worked your horse particularly hard or took a shortcut on any of the aforementioned steps. Just take a quick look at him each 15-30 minutes or so during the first hour as you pass by to make sure there are no signs of discomfort or distress.

I personally do not work my horses in the extreme heat – evening training and work sessions are the rule of the day for me during the summer months. But if morning or evening workouts are not possible for you, adhering to all the other rules of thumb listed above should reduce your horse's discomfort and help ensure he remains healthy and happy.

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