Summer means it’s time for rodeo season! With county fairs and rodeos going on all summer long, there are plenty of opportunities to compete your horse and come home with a blue ribbon and possibly even a little bit of cash.
Unfortunately, summertime also means heat. This summer the United States has been shrouded in blistering temperatures that show no sign of letting up. For many riders, this complicates their rodeo routine. Understanding how to cool off a horse by choosing a lightweight saddle blanket for horses, shortening your warm-up, and supplementing your horse’s diet, among other techniques, is crucial for a safe and happy rodeo season.
Warming-up at a rodeo is crucial. A good warm-up allows your horse’s muscles to stretch and become more flexible after standing in a stall or trailer. A warm-up protects your horse’s muscles and tendons by gradually introducing them to work, instead of throwing them right into the strain of running barrels or roping. On a cool day, your warm-up may consist of several laps of walk, jog, and lope. Depending on what classes you’re competing in that day, you may even be throwing in some extended lope or galloping, practicing pole bending, or turning around barrels.
On a hot day, you’ll have to adjust the expectations for your warm-up. Instead of loping for laps at a time, you may have to stick to one lap each direction. Stay on your horse’s back for the shortest amount of time possible. Don’t waste 20 minutes walking before your class. Hop off and wait on foot until it’s closer to your time to ride. While you wait, have a bucket of water nearby so you can offer your horse a drink and maybe even sponge off major veins in their body– their chest and inside their hind legs.
Speaking of water, you should always pack water from home when traveling to a rodeo for a variety of reasons, including biosecurity and familiarity of taste. In hot weather, you should bring more water than usual. Make sure you have designated buckets for drinking versus sponging down your horse. To prevent it from getting overly hot sitting in your trailer tack room or in the bed of your truck, add some ice to the water buckets before you leave for the rodeo in the morning.
If your horse is reluctant to drink while traveling, test out some flavor additives before leaving home. Some horses enjoy gatorade, while others enjoy electrolytes or a handful of sweet feed added to the water. There’s a wide variety of products on the market designed to encourage horses to drink, like Redmond Reinwater. Reinwater is added directly to your horse’s water while traveling or at home. Made of natural ingredients from Redmond’s mineral deposits, Reinwater will help replenish your horse’s vitamins and minerals while encouraging them to stay hydrated at the same time.
After a hot day of competition, ice is your best friend. There are many creative ways to use ice on a hot day at the rodeo. Once you’re done competing, take the time to ice your horse’s legs. Not only will this help cool off your horse, but it will also help prevent swelling and injury. According to Pro Equine Grooms, “Heat in the tendons, ligaments, and joints creates cellular damage, which creates tendon damage, ligament damage, arthritis in the joints.”
The faster you can cool down your horse’s legs, the better you’ll be able to prevent damage in the tendons, ligaments, and joints due to the heat. Make icing your horse’s legs easier with the help of a set of ice boots. You can get boots that you keep in the freezer, like the Arma H2O Cool Therapy Boots, or you can use zip-up ice boots that you manually fill with ice, like Jack’s Ice Boots.
Besides icing your horse’s legs, there are less traditional ways you can use ice at your next rodeo. Some equestrians swear by mixing some ice into the bedding of the trailer. As the ice melts, the water evaporates, theoretically filling the trailer with cold air. The only consideration should you choose to do this is to be cautious with the amount of ice you use. Not only do you not want to saturate the shavings, but you don’t want to make the floor of the trailer slippery. You can also make gatorade ice cubes, which some horses enjoy as treats.
In hot weather, your horse will sweat more, particularly when working hard at a rodeo. As they sweat, they’re losing essential nutrients. According to Kentucky Equine Research, “Equine sweat is more concentrated with salt (sodium and chloride) than other body fluids. As a result, horses can lose a lot of these electrolytes quickly when they sweat.”
Without electrolytes, your horse can become dehydrated and won’t be able to cool themselves as efficiently. Luckily, we can supplement our horses with electrolytes to prevent this from happening. Electrolytes come in many different forms, from pastes to powders. For example, the Redmond Electrolyte Mint Syringe is a fast-acting paste that can be administered easily before stressful situations or at the first sign of dehydration. This syringe is easy to throw into your dressing room or grooming bag to bring to the rodeo with you.
You may want to add some electrolytes to your horse’s breakfast and dinner on the day of the rodeo. The easiest way to do this is with a powdered supplement, like Equinavia TRM Electrolyte Gold. This supplement contains essential electrolytes and vitamins in an amino acid and glucose base. The inclusion of antioxidants Vitamins E and C also help to protect muscle tissue by eliminating ‘free radicals,’ a byproduct of exercise.
Have you heard the phrase “dress for success?” Change your tack before heading to the rodeo on a hot day. Swap out heavy traditional saddle blankets for horses for a lighter saddle pad. The Lettia CoolMax Western Liner is a great option to keep your horse cool. These liners are designed to keep your horse cool and comfortable while you ride. The CoolMax fabric featuring moisture wicking properties on the underside of this liner provides cool comfort under the saddle.
Other great options for saddle blankets for horses on a hot day include the TuffRider Felt Western Saddle Pad. This saddle blanket for horses is made from compressed felt to protect the horse's back from shock and impact from the rider. This felt is made out of compressed polyester, which is breathable and keeps your horse dry and cool all ride long.
Many Western saddle pads are made from wool. When it comes to hot weather, wool has some pros and cons. Unlike cotton and linen, wool won’t wrinkle or bunch up underneath the saddle when it gets sweaty. Wool also wicks moisture away from the skin, allowing the horse’s body to cool itself more efficiently. However, wool saddle blankets for horses tend to be heavier than other materials. If you choose to ride in a wool saddle blanket at your next rodeo, choose your lightest one and look for a saddle blanket that’s advertised as made from summer weight wool.
If you normally put neoprene sports medicine boots on your horse, reconsider these before a hot summer rodeo. Neoprene boots that don’t have ventilation can trap heat against your horse’s legs, causing them to overheat and increasing the risk of tendon damage. Instead, choose a lightweight boot with mesh or honeycomb material, like the Tough-1 Extreme Vented Sport Boots. These boots feature a suspensory sling strap that provides flexible fetlock and tendon support without restricting movement or inhibiting performance. The vented (perforated) inner and outer layers allow heat to escape while keeping dirt and debris out.
Sometimes, too hot is just too hot. It’s better to skip a rodeo than risk your horse’s health– or your own. Remember, horses overheat faster than humans. If you’re struggling in the heat, chances are high that your horse is having an even harder time than you are.
There are a few factors to consider when deciding whether or not to cancel your next rodeo. Is your horse new to this climate? Or are they well adjusted to the heat? If you recently imported your horse from a cooler climate, like the Northern United States, your horse won’t be used to the heat that’s prevalent in the southern parts of the country. They will struggle more than a horse who grew up in Florida, for example.
If your horse finds rodeos to be very stressful, the heat will only exacerbate their stress and compound heat-related issues. An experienced competition horse who is relaxed in a rodeo environment will be better able to handle the heat.
At the end of the day, you have to make the decision that is right for your horse. Use the Heat Indexas a guide to tell you when it’s time to withdraw. The Heat Index is calculated by adding the humidity plus the temperature. If this number equals less than 120, you’re in the green zone and free to proceed as normal. If the heat index equals 150 or more, your horse’s ability to regulate their body temperature has decreased. At these temperatures, it’s time to reconsider competing in a rodeo.
Keeping your horse cool at a hot rodeo takes effort and consideration on your part. You can make your job easier with the right supplies and equipment. On Breeches.com, we strive to provide our customers with the products they need at affordable prices. Whether you need a new saddle blanket for horses or are hoping to invest in a new pair of ice boots before your next rodeo, we’re here to help.
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