Thursday, July 18, 2013

Showing in the Heat

Everyone keeps asking me if we show in the heat, and yes we do. But we take some extra precautions to keep the horses comfortable. The humans, I figure, can speak for themselves, but the horses didn't choose to go to the show, so I feel obligated to make sure they are ok. I have learned a lot of tricks from my endurance-riding friends as well as picking up a few tips from other sources.

Here's how we do it:

First, my trailer has tons of windows and three fans - one for each horse and one in the tack room. When I trailer on hot days, I open the windows in the front of the tack room and between the tack room and the horse area so the horses get the most air that they can.

I use ice to keep the air around the horse's heads cooler. One way horses cool is by panting, so having cooler air for them to breath goes long way towards keeping them comfortable. The hay bag also has ice dumped over the hay. When I am only hauling one horse on hot days, I keep the head divider open so both fans can blow on Ockie.

In this shot, you can see how the fan blows the ice-cooled air over Ockie. We jokingly call this "red neck air conditioning." Ockie usually has a water bucket hanging in front of her too, but she kept playing with it and blurring the photo :-). The trailer door was only closed for the lighting of this photo, usually they are open when the trailer isn't moving. 
Of course, we sponge and scrape with ice water on the horse's necks and jugular areas during walk breaks and right before and after our class. Amy meets me at the bit check area with the bucket ready to go. I am usually pretty independent at a show, but on hot days I really need an extra set of hands to help keep my mount cool.
As soon as we get the tack off, we put ice on the horse's legs. It not only helps prevent minor tendon stress from becoming strains, it cools the many, many blood vessels that flow through the legs. When it is hot, we hose the horses off while they are wearing their ice boots.
On days when the sweat just isn't evaporating, sometimes a spritz of alcohol will help. Alcohol evaporates easier than water, and takes some of the heat with it. We will spritz the horses before warm-up, just before we go into the ring, and during cool down. We try not to over-do this trick, as it will dry their coats

Also, to keep them drinking enough, I offer them beet pulp-alfalfa cube soup in the trailer along with their water bucket. Sometimes I add carrots to the water bucket, to flavor the water and encourage them to play bob-for-carrots along the way. Yes, this makes a huge mess, but in addition to getting water in their systems, it gives them some long-staple fiber in their stomachs to absorb any trailer-stress stomach acid, which helps prevent uclers. Cleaning towels are cheap, Ulcerguard isn't.

I electrolyte the night before we trailer and after we get home. I don't electrolyte just before trailering, as giving the horses something to make them thirsty then putting them in a moving trailer where some horses won't drink, isn't really a good idea.

I am realistic with my expectations on hot days. I can't be angry if a horse isn't 100% when the temps are 100, that just isn't fair. And yes, sometimes we even stay home on hot days. Sometimes.

(yes, I know I haven't blogged in forever, I'll get an update blog up soon. Promise.)

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