With the heat & high humidity wave we are having in Alabama, I thought this was a good time to remind everyone to be careful with their horses. As all of us Southerners know, its not just the heat, its the humidity! When the humidity is over 75%, a horse's ability to cool itself is greatly reduced, no matter what the temperature. When making the decision if its to hot to ride, you have to consider the temperature, humidity & wind. To figure out if its safe to ride use this simple formula...
air temperature + relative humidity - wind speed = answer
Less than 130: All go-horses can function to cool themselves assuming adequate hydration.
130 - 170: Caution-a horse’s cooling mechanisms can only partially function as intended. Some cooling management procedures will need to be performed.
180 or above: Stop-a horse’s cooling systems cannot and will not function adequately. All cooling procedures will need to be utilized to keep the horse out of serious trouble.
Temperature (F) + relative humidity (%) - wind speed
This morning (7/11/11) at 10:00 am in Oneonta, AL:
Temperature (F) 84 (so not that hot)
Relative Humidity (%) 80 (but VERY humid!)
Wind Speed 1 (MPH) (and no wind)
Answer = 163- use caution! As someone who has had heat exhaustion more than once, if I decided to ride, I would opt to go on a leisurely trail ride & not work my horse in these conditions, even though my ArabX handles the heat better than I do :)
Of course, you should consider both your & your horses level of conditioning, level of work & heat tolerance when making these decisions. And make sure you are aware of the signs of heat exhaustion in both horses & people!
If your horse does get overheated, remember that research at the Atlanta Olympics showed that the best way to cool a horse down quickly is to use cold water (ice water) with the sponge & scrape method. Do not leave the water on the horse since it heats up quickly & can actually slow down the cooling process- scrape the water off and apply more- repeat till the horse is cooled off.
For more information check out
http://www.whmentors.org/saf/heat1.html - this one covers the signs of heat illness in humans and equines, well worth a quick read