Keep Your Cool

How to manage horseback riding in the heat.

From Tractor Supply Co.

Performance horses are still expected to deliver an optimum performance, even as the weather gets hot. By assessing working conditions, water consumption and feeding practices, you can keep your horse healthy and happy all summer long.

It is best to work a horse during the early morning hours or in the evening. Avoid working horses during the hottest part of the day. This is best for both horse and rider. If horses must be trained or shown during the middle of the day, they should be offered water regularly to avoid dehydration and heat stroke. However, do not give a hot horse large quantities of water at once. "Six sips and walk" is a good guideline. Loss of fluid can cause colic in horses. And be aware that if a horse stops sweating, immediate attention is required.

Many people enjoy a leisurely horseback ride on a scenic trail. Stewards for Trails, Education and Partnerships, sponsored by Tractor Supply Co., is a program that encourages equestrian groups to participate in trail maintenance and restoration projects. Anyone can participate, and funding is available to help your group get started. Join the STEP program today to start seeing more beautiful trails tomorrow.

Secondly, adjust feeding during the hot summer months. A horse's total thermal load can be reduced by using highly digestible fiber sources and added fat feed sources. Offer lower-fiber hay or an early cut grass or grass-legume mixture. An added-fat feed or the addition of corn oil to the diet will provide higher energy with lower intake and will assist in reducing the thermal load. It is best to offer several small meals a day instead of two large feedings so that digestion can be spread out throughout the day. Avoid high level of protein, as the excess nitrogen increases fluid loss due to the higher urine output.

Lastly, a performance horse may require 4 to 6 ounces of salt per day, so loose trace mineral salt should be available free-choice in a feeder to maintain electrolyte balance. Electrolyte supplements may be beneficial immediately before and during a competition, but care must be taken to make certain the horse is consuming adequate water.

Do you know of a piece of land or an old trail that, with a little work, would make for a perfect trail ride? Stewards for Trails, Education and Partnerships, sponsored by Tractor Supply Co., can help you make this dream a reality. STEP is an excellent program to do with a club, organization or other friends at the stable. Become a steward of the land by starting STEP today.

Member Benefit Spotlight

As a member of the American Quarter Horse Association, you can take advantage of the benefits that just keep building. Members are eligible to participate in the Horseback Riding Program for great new prizes including horse supplies, clothing, gift certificates and so much more. Participation in the Stewards for Trails, Education and Partnerships can also earn you great rewards. All you have to do is log your hours spent riding the trail and you can watch the rewards start rolling in. Join or renew your AQHA membership today.