Monday, June 8, 2015

Tips for Riding During the Summer

I'm so glad it's summer. It feels like the whole world is awake and buzzing with activity. The warmth and sunshine is wonderful to be out in but you do need to be mindful of how quickly overheating can happen. I've mentioned before that I grew up in the southwest deserts of Texas and New Mexico but I've always been a bit susceptible to dizzy spells while riding in the heat. Over the years I've picked up a few methods to help combat the dangers of riding in high temperatures so please, learn from my mistakes and take a few minutes to prepare for the heat.

1. Keep Hydrated - I know this is obvious but in my experience it really is the most important.  Make sure you have plenty of water to drink before, during, and after your rides.  Sports drinks shouldn't completely replace water either.  Bring a big bottle of the clear basic stuff and take breaks during your ride to have a few quick sips.  Let your horse have a drink too. A bucket and hose by the rail or wading into a water jump or creek can be very refreshing for your horse.

2. Wear sunscreen,  and apply it every 2 hours - Another obvious one but it is important.  I was terrible about this as a kid and I have a good amount of sun damage to show for it. Choose a high SPF and put it on 20 minutes before you go outside and don't forget your neck and ears.  I like the Neurogena Dry Touch for all arms, neck, ears, etc.  It goes on like a standard white creamy sunscreen but it dries very fast and doesn't feel slimy.  I also put this one on my nose and cheeks but have to be careful about getting it too close to my eyes. It doesn't have a harsh smell or run but it makes my eyes water.
Nitrogen Dry-Touch Sunscreen

For my face I prefer to use a mineral powder sunscreen.  My favorite is this little brush from Peter Thomas Roth that you can find at Sephora.  You just turn it upside down, give it a tap, and the brush loads itself with powder that's ready to apply.  It's a translucent powder too so it matches all skin tones. These brushes run about $30.00 each and I can get 3 to 4 months of use with daily applications. Even though it seems expensive it's very convenient, is so easy to use, and does a great job of fending off sunburns.
Peter Thomas Roth Mineral Sunscreen from Sephora

This is what happens when you don't reapply sunblock fast enough. Glove and watch lobster lines.

3. Acclimate and Take Breaks - Be very mindful of adjusting your typical rides for hot or humid days. Heat can overwhelm your body quickly and if you do too much too soon you could push past your limit. The same goes for your horse.  Start slow, pay attention to breathing, sweating, sudden decrease in energy, and dizziness. If something seems not quite right you may want to take a step back to evaluate how much additional stress the heat may be having on you or your horse. Be ready to change your plan or just call it a day.

4. Stay out of direct sun - Possibly another obvious tip but it really does make a difference.  UV rays are like the Wu-Tang clan and they're strongest from 11AM to 4:00PM.

5. Ride early in the morning or at dusk - The temperature drop makes such a big difference for the comfort of you and your horse.  Many people take advantage of the cool early mornings by getting their rides in before heading to the office. Longer days also mean more ride time after work for many horse owners which happens to line up oh so conveniently with the cool evening breezes.  Bring some bug spray though as flies and mosquitoes also know when the best time to be out is.

6. Hit the trails - If you have access to trails with lots of trees and grass this is an excellent way to enjoy summer rides. The sun won't be reflecting off of the sandy ring footing, and the grass and vegetation act as little evaporative coolers. Take advantage if you can and you'll feel the difference.

7. Wear summer weight clothing in light colors - I talked about sun shirts a few weeks back and I stand by that piece as I've been wearing mine like crazy since I got my first arm sunburn of the season. Light weight clothing that has moisture management capabilities can make a big difference in your comfort while riding.  There are many tops, gloves, breeches, and riding jeans that are being made to absorb sweat and quickly take it to the surface of the fabric to aid in cooling. Take these technical fabrics and make them in light colors that reflect instead of absorb the heat and you'll really appreciate how far riding gear has come.
Dover's Riding Sport Cool Blast Top

8. Ventilated helmet - My first ventilated helmet was pretty ugly.  It was white, massive, and completely looked like a mushroom, but it was so amazingly comfortable and it prevented me from passing out during my summer lessons.  While I've never allowed the look of a helmet to keep me from wearing it I am happy that ventilated schooling helmets have come a long way since then.  I now school in a Tipperary Sportage for the hot summer days and am glad that my One K Defender will also keep me cool while providing a polished show ring appearance.  I have more information about choosing a helmet in Part 1 of my Starter Kit for Riding Lessons. 
"The" massive white helmet.  

9. Frozen Bananas, Strawberries, Grapes, and other fruit - We talked about keeping hydrated during summer rides but you should also think about what you're eating. Frozen fruit is awesome for giving you a boost of sugar and a helping you feel full. Fruit won't weigh you down and is generally pretty good at not irritating your stomach. The horses seem to love it too. You can also put frozen fruit in your water bottle to act as flavored ice cubes.

10. Take extra care to properly cool down - When cooling down you can improve the comfort of your horse by finding a shady or breezy spot to walk while their breathing returns to normal.  Offer water, salt and give them a spray with the hose and scrape off the water. If your horse is still warm you can continue to hose them off and scrape again until they're comfortable.

I hope these tips will help keep you and your horse feeing good this summer.  Next week I'll keep going with our summer apparel reviews by letting you know what I think of the new Kerrits Ice Fil Tech Tights. Now that you know, go ride! 

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