Managing the Summer Heat with Your Horseback Students
What is the best way to manage riders and riding lessons in the summer heat? Having taught riding in both the dry hot Southwest and the very humid Midwest, I hope some of the tips I’ve gathered will help you with your lesson program.
The Heat Index
When in doubt check the heat index at the National Weather Service https://www.weather.gov web site. This site can provide you with the current heat index in your location at any given time.
- High humidity does not allow the body to cool down.
- Heat index is computed with the real temp and the humitdity
Schedule lessons and training in the cooler part of the day and avoid midday sun.
- Lets face the facts here. Even though you will hear people say of Arizona heat, “It’s a dry heat.” It’s still hot and Southwesterners sweat just as much as Midwesterners. I cook my Thanksgiving turkey in a dry oven and my pot roast in a crock pot. One is dry heat and the other is moist heat and they both cook.
- When I was Regional Supervisor for USPC in Arizona/New Mexico we had clubs that held their meetings at 5:00 AM to beat the heat.
- As an instructor, I taught lessons as early as 6:00 AM. You can teach earlier in the morning or later in the evening.
- An outdoor lesson under arena lights can add a cool and peaceful tone to your lessons.
- Pick your coolest times and adjust your schedule.
- People in dry hot climates learn to carry a water bottle where ever they go.
- Recommend that riders drink water before they ride
- Take water breaks during the lesson
- Riders can bring their own water bottles
- Freeze bottles of water and bring them out at the beginning of the lessons so they are melted by break time.
- Provide shorty bottles of water that can be drunk in a short time.
- Keep cold water bottles in a barn refrigerator
- Load your pop machine with water bottles or cans
- Have a giant cooler full of water and ice with paper cups. Be sure to provide a trash can.
- Be sure riders drink water after their lessons.
- Encourage the consumption of sports drinks with electrolytes to replace sodium and potassium lost through sweating.
Get In Shape for Heat
- Condition to the weather
- Students who spend most of their time in air conditioning will struggle when they are in the heat for their riding lessons. Try to encourage riders to get other exercise in the heat so they can condition for riding.
Embrace the Sweat
- Sweating is good. It’s the body’s way of releasing heat.
- Be aware of student with Anhidrosis, the inability to sweat. Ask parents for their doctor’s recommendation for dealing with Anhidrosis in the heat.
- In the Midwest we have far more visible sweat than we had in Arizona. In fact, in Missouri during July, you might feel like the sweat could fill a bucket, but don’t let that fool you for one minute. Sweat evaporates in dryer climates and you sweat more than you realize. That feeling of tingling with the hairs of your arms, most of the time that will be sweat evaporating from your skin.
- Sweat getting in your eyes? Try a head band around your forehead or a rolled bandanna.
Wearing the proper clothing for riding during the heat can make a huge difference. While it might be hard to get away from tight breeches or jeans have riders choose a summer weight fabric.
And do away with heavy chaps.
Recommend light colored tops that are loose to allow airflow.
Go for a light weight helmet with lots of vents and a removable lining.
Or try one with freezable inserts like the The GPS Pro.
Or add your own freezable insert with with flexible gel freezer packs. Check your drug store for the smaller size then place them in the top of your helmet. If you barn has a refrigerator why not let students label their packs and keep them in the freezer?
And if your riders look as though they are becoming too hot, don’t hesitate to let them dismount and remove their helmet for a few minutes. I have even been known to run the hose over my head.
I am all for cooling neck bands filled with polymer crystals (silica gel, the stuff in those little packets you find in shoe boxes)
You can have riders supply their own or you can keep a bucket full in your office. These handy little crystals (encased in a neck band) soak up a ton of water and will help keep your rider’s necks cool for a long time.
You’ll find them for sale by searching google. I bought my first neck bands at the rodeo in Prescott Arizona years ago.
And if you or a student have the DYI tendency, here is a link for directions to make them yourself. https://www.instructables.com/id/Sew-Very-Useful-Neck-Cooler/
If you’re more of a visual learner check out this video by Kat at DYI with Orbeez.
So there you have it, a few suggestions for keeping students cool. If you aren’t familiar with the signs of heat stress or need a refresher, I’ve included a link to the Mayo Clinic article Heat Exhaustion https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heat-exhaustion/symptoms-causes/syc-20373250
Have a cool summer! Keep yourself and your riders safe. And if you have some tips and ideas to share with readers please add them in the comments.
Barbara Ellin Fox