Monday, July 11, 2011

Baby, it's Hot Outside.

This is just one consequence of 2 hot, tired, sweaty horses! 
Idjit and Eddie at Big Bear schooling horse trials (Pine Mtn, GA).

My friend, Kelly Hanby (yes, my friend of the fabulous life at the lake and the farm I blogged about last week), is also the president of the Birmingham Dressage and Combined Training Association. Today, she posted this on BDCTA's Facebook page and I felt it absolutely necessary to share. I'm a humanities scholar all the way; but, occasionally science and math do have their place in life, too. 


With the heat & high humidity wave we are having in Alabama, I thought this was a good time to remind everyone to be careful with their horses. As all of us Southerners know, its not the heat, its the humidity! When the humidity is over 75%, a horse's ability to cool itself is greatly reduced, no matter what the temperature. When making the decision if it's too hot to ride, you have to consider the temperature, humidity, & wind. To figure out if its safe to ride use this simple formula...

The Formula:
air temperature + relative humidity - wind speed = answer

Less than 130: All go -- horses can function to cool themselves assuming adequate hydration.
130 - 170: Caution -- a horse’s cooling mechanisms can only partially function as intended. Some cooling management procedures will need to be performed.
170 or above: Stop -- a horse’s cooling systems cannot and will not function adequately. All cooling procedures will need to be utilized to keep the horse out of serious trouble.

For example:
Temperature (F) + relative humidity (%) - wind speed
This morning at 10:00 am in Oneonta:
Temperature (F) 84 (so not that hot)
Relative Humidity (%) 80 (but VERY humid!)
Wind Speed 1 (MPH) (and no wind)
Answer = 163: use caution! As someone who has had heat exhaustion more than once, if I decided to ride, I would opt to go on a leisurely trail ride & not work my horse in these conditions, even though my Arab-cross handles the heat better than I do.

Of course, you should consider both your & your horse's level of conditioning, level of work, & heat tolerance when making these decisions. And make sure you are aware of the signs of heat exhaustion in both horses & people!

If your horse does get overheated, remember that research at the Atlanta Olympics showed that the best way to cool a horse down quickly is to use cold water (ice water) with the sponge & scrape method. Do not leave the water on the horse since it heats up quickly & can actually slow down the cooling process- scrape the water off and apply more- repeat till the horse is cooled off.

UPDATED TO ADD that a trainer-friend of mine made the excellent point that knowing your limits and your horse's limits is the best way to make a smart decision about riding in the heat, but for those of you who teach, being extra careful to understand the needs of your individual students and their specific horses is another thing entirely. No one likes to cancel or lose a teaching session due to unfavorable weather conditions, but a smart trainer will make that decision every time when it's the right thing to do. Ride carefully, y'all!

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