There is no denying that summer has arrived and with Canada Day fast approaching, many of us want to spend the day off outdoors with our horses. But with record temperatures across much of the country, how do riders stay safe in the extreme heat?
I moved myself and my horse to Florida in May (don’t ask) and we’ve had a tough time acclimating to the constant heat and humidity. Even though it’s not heatwave material for locals, daily the temps are pushing 35 degrees Celsius with 90-100% humidity. I choose to ride in the morning and am usually hosing off my horse by 10:30 a.m. But no matter how early I ride, when I’m finished I resemble a melted candle.
We clipped my horse’s “summer” coat to relieve him of an extra layer and he’s coping better than I am. Indeed, I’ve become obsessed with my health as I adjust to the extreme heat and humidity.
I never leave home without sunscreen applied with a spatula (kidding, but I do use a lot). I prefer one with a tint so I have some coverage, too. Tinted sunscreens and beauty balms with SPF are great for the showring as they act like foundation without being too heavy.
Try: L’Oreal Paris Age Perfect Radiant Serum Foundation with SPF 50
But if you prefer a straight-up sunscreen, this one is rider tested: Neutrogena Sport Face Sunscreen 70 SPF. This stuff doesn’t run into your eyes when you sweat.
Large floppy hats and long-sleeved sun shirts are my constant wardrobe, as are riding tights for their lightness. And for sure a pair of sports wraparound sunglasses. Eye protection is as important against UV rays as sunscreen. To that end, I also invested in a visor for my helmet. Kaley Cuoco wears hers constantly and she looks adorable!
Try the Soless Velcro UV blocking visor:
But no matter what precautions you take, two things to watch out for are heat exhaustion and heat stroke and we are all at risk during crazy heat waves, no matter how young or old we are! Here are some tips to recognize and treat both conditions.
Let’s begin with heat exhaustion, which occurs when our body overheats to cool itself down. This can happen after physical activity in hot weather. Heat exhaustion is normally not a serious condition and can be treated fairly easily. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
- Dizziness and confusion
- Cool, moist skin with goose bumps when in the heat
- Loss of appetite and feeling sick
- Excessive sweating and pale, clammy skin
- Cramps in the arms, legs and stomach
- Rapid breathing or pulse
- A high temperature of 38°C or above
- Extreme thirst
How to Help:
If you recognize the signs of heat exhaustion in someone you’re riding with or a person at the barn, here are some things you can do to get them cooled down:
- Move them to a cool place, preferably air conditioned.
- Get them to lie down and raise their feet slightly.
- Make them drink loads water. Sports drinks like Gatorade are helpful if you have them on hand (which you should).
- Spray or sponge them with cool water. Cold packs around the armpits or neck also work.
- Do not leave the person alone until they’re feeling well again. Normally this takes up to half an hour.
If, after the efforts to cool the person down they are still not feeling well despite drinking lots of water, then they may have heat stroke, which is much more serious. Heat stroke happens when our body becomes unable to control its temperature; we can’t sweat or cool down. Our body temperature can rise to 40°C or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided. You should call 9-1-1. Symptoms of heat stroke include:
- Not sweating
- High body temperature
- Rapid breathing
Of course, none of want either heat-related illness ‒ we just want to ride. Here are some other tips to remain safe and cool this summer and help prevent dehydration before, during and after riding:
- Drink plenty of cold drinks, especially when exercising
- Take cool baths or showers
- Wear light-colored, loose clothing
- Sprinkle or spray water over skin and/or clothes
- Avoid the sun between 11am and 3pm
- Avoid excess alcohol
- Avoid extreme exercise
Enjoy your summer and ensure you watch yourself and your riding buddies for signs of heat-related illness as closely as you monitor your own horse’s welfare!