8 Tips to Survive Summer Shows
We’ve reached mid-June and while the calendar still says the first day of Summer is officially a few days away, many of us are already feeling the heat. Summer is also a huge time for shows so while our non-horsey peers may be spending the season in the comfort of air conditioning or a refreshing pool, we have to sweat it out in dry, dusty arenas. Whether you’re baking in the desert sun, or feeling the hot and humid effects of the weather, there are ways to make it through the summer circuits without you and your horse melting.
This summer, make sure you:
1. Stay hydrated- This goes for both you and your horse. In excessive heat, it’s even easier to get dehydrated. In order to cool yourself, you sweat more which means you need to replenish the water that you lose. Most nutritionists agree that water is the best source. Sports drinks may have additional electrolytes, but they are also packed with sugar which can add up quickly. Also, keep a close eye to make sure your horse is drinking enough. When in strange places, your horse may be hesitant to drink sufficiently if the water tastes different. You can also encourage water intake by providing loose salt with their feed or an electrolyte supplement. Wetting their hay is another way to increase water intake as well as cut down on dust. If you know your horse is picky about “foreign” water, you might want to plan ahead and bring water from home, particularly if you’re not at a long circuit. If you go the electrolyte route, be sure to make sure there is fresh water available to your horse (which you should do anyway). Several popular products are SmartLytes Pellets from SmartPak, Electro-Aid Paste from DAC, and Apple-A-Day by Finish Line.*
*If your horse has HYPP sensitivities, please check with your veterinarian before administering electrolytes.
2. Dress appropriately- Few riders look forward to putting on (and taking off) the heavy show clothes like hunt seat coats and rail jackets. Even though you can’t always “dress down” into less formal duds, take advantage when you can and don popular cotton show shirt for everything from western pleasure to trail to horsemanship. Men aren’t the only ones who can enjoy a more casual look in the heat. Cotton is lighter and more breathable than the heavy, rhinestone-laden attire. Also, just because it may seem like a basic essential, doesn’t mean you have to be boring. We particularly like these fun designs from All That Show Clothing and Just Peachy.
3. Have lots of fans- And no, we’re not talking about the social media type. Since show horses spend the majority of their time indoors, they sometimes don’t have access to the cooling cross-ventilation that comes with an outdoor breeze. While your barn at home may be properly ventilated, some show barns tend to be more closed-in and stagnant air just adds to the heat. Be sure you put fans where the horses can easily stand in front of or under for a refreshing breeze. Also, consider adding a fan or two to the aisle as long as it is not in the way of passersby or other traffic. The more air movement, the cooler it will feel. If budget allows, you can even look into these nifty misting fans from Advanced Misting Systems to cut down the heat even more.
4. Avoid the heat of the day- While we know that isn’t always possible with show schedules, try to avoid doing the bulk of the work, like lunging and riding, in the heat of the day. Get up a little early or stay out in the evenings to try to beat the heat, and only do what you have to during the hottest hours between noon and 4 pm (or later depending on your location).
5. Are heat-conscious when hauling- Those metal trailers really absorb heat, and while you’re cruising along in the comfort of your truck’s air conditioning, your horse may be back there sweltering. Make sure yours has adequate ventilation and be sure to stop regularly to offer your horse water. If possible, travel at night. Without the sun bearing down on you, there will be less heat that is being absorbed not only from the sun itself, but also from the roads. Also, be mindful when traveling through major cities. Sitting in traffic restricts the airflow that circulates through the trailer when it is moving.
6. Know the signs of heat exhaustion in both people and horses- Heat exhaustion is a matter not to be taken lightly as it can quickly escalate into life-threatening heat stroke. Be sure to know what to look out for if you suspect you, another person, or a horse has gotten overheated. Symptoms in people can include confusion, dizziness, fainting, fatigue, headaches, nausea and vomiting, pale and/or clammy skin, excessive sweating, and an increased heart beat. If you suspect that you or someone else is suffering from heat exhaustion, drink plenty of water, seek cooler areas (like air conditioning or shade), remove tight clothing, and seek medical treatment. Horses can also easily get overheated, especially in hot and humid conditions. For an in-depth look at how to prevent and treat heat-related conditions in horses, check out this past article on Pleasurehorse.com.
7. Offer water and other cool treats if you’re a member of show management- Many show managements have begun offering free water to exhibitors as a way to give back and help them beat the heat. Whether passing out bottles by hand or filling a huge tub of ice and water bottles at the show office or in-gate, this is definitely a great idea to keep people happy and hydrated. In the past, some have also offered other cool treats like watermelon slices and popsicles. Get creative, and people will definitely appreciate your efforts.
8. Slather on the SPF- Lastly, don’t forget the sunscreen! While everyone seeks covered and/or climate-controlled arenas in the sweltering sun, you’ll have to get out in it sooner or later. Be sure to protect your skin and your horse’s (particularly if you have a light-skinned horse like a Paint, Appaloosa, or Cremello) from the sun’s damaging rays. A sunburn makes the show much less fun for you and your horse, and the immediate discomfort can give way to permanent damage further down the road. For us humans, we recommend Neutrogena’s new CoolDry Sport sunscreen. Not only is it sweat-resistant, it also comes in both SPF 30 and SPF 70 strengths, and isn’t sticky or greasy like other sunscreens, allowing sweat to evaporate easier. For your equine friends, we particularly like Healthy Haircare Sunflower Sunscreen for all-over coat protection and Exhibitor Lab’s Quic Shade for spot protection on areas like those sensitive noses. It also doubles as a highlighter for show day.
Summer is considered by many to be the best time of the year. Days are longer, the vibe is more laid back, and even the shows have an extra layer of fun, even in the heat.
Do you have any tips you’d like to add to the list? Let us know in the comments!