HELPFUL HEAT ADVICE FOR HORSE OWNERS PLANNING TO COMPETE IN THE UK THIS WEEKEND
The BBC issued this heat-health alert last night (7th June 2023)……. “A heat-health alert has been issued for parts of England as temperatures are predicted to hit 30°C (86°F) over the weekend. The alert is in place from 09:00 BST on Friday 9 June to 09:00 on Monday 12 June in London, the Midlands, eastern and southern England.”
Having had a pretty cool Summer so far, there is a sudden jump in temperatures predicted this weekend along with some rain. This advice is primarily for those planning to compete. This is not dramatic. It’s not meant to scare anyone. It’s just to make sure everyone is aware and prepared and to hopefully reduce the risks of illness or accidents.
Temperatures approaching 30°C do not normally present a problem for most fit and healthy horses. But, given most of us have been training at 5-15°C for most of this season, a jump to high 20’s can be a challenge as horses will not be acclimatised to this.
WHAT ARE THE POSSIBLE CONSEQUENCES?
For those competing, especially in events such as cross-country or endurance
Horses tire (fatigue) earlier
Horses can’t manage the same intensity/duration of exercise
Increased risks of mistakes/errors
Horses will likely finish hotter than expected
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
You CANNOT ACCLIMATISE your horse between now and the weekend by riding in the hotter part of the day. Any attempt to do so is likely to make it worse.
Make sure you travel early and or late to avoid heat and traffic. A long hot journey before competing is very likely to add to the overall negative effect of hot weather
Potentially plan to change your warm-up, including a shorter warm-up or splitting your warm-up into 2-3 shorter sessions
Be aware your horse may tire earlier if you ride at normal pace
Take plenty of water or find out if water is available at the venue
Allow you horse access to water to drink right up until competing and immediately after
Combined with hard ground and the risk of rain you may decide that its just not worth the risk, especially if you have a horse that’s not as fit as you would like and/or with orthopaedic or other health issues and/or if your horse is older (20 years or more)
WHAT TO DO WITH A VERY HOT HORSE AFTER COMPETING
Signs your horse is very hot after competing include
deep, laboured breathing and later on panting
covered in sweat
hot to touch
Start cooling as soon as possible
Time is critical
Apply water all over the body – many horses don’t enjoy water over the head and it’s not necessary to put water here as this does not “cool the brain”
In the UK, water from hoses, bore holes, bowsers, troughs if they are in the shade, etc is often cool enough for cooling (<20°C) without the need for ice but the cooler the water the quicker the horse will cool – Check in advance water is going to be available at venues
If your horse is ataxic, try to keep them walking
It may take 10-15 minutes of continuous cooling to cool a hot horse
If your horse is not recovering or appears to be getting worse, seek veterinary help
If you are wondering about my credentials to give this advice, I have been doing this for major equestrian events, including the Olympic Games, since 1996.
We have a FREE poster to help. Print it and put it up at your yard for everyone.