Summer Riding: How hot is too hot?

By: Dr. Lydia Gray

Even armed with the latest, greatest technology such as Accuweather’s “RealFeel,” there’s still more to consider than just the temperature, humidity, wind, and sun when determining if it’s too hot to ride this summer. Here are some practical tips to help you make the call of “how hot is TOO hot” for equestrian activities:

  1. Horses that already live where it’s warm and humid are at least somewhat acclimated to the environment. If a horse has recently shipped in from a cooler, drier region though, it can take 21 days for them to get used to the new climate. Experts advise keeping the workload light as horses adjust.

  2. In addition to getting used to a hotter, stickier environment, horses also have to get used to the workload. If a horse is already fit going into summer, he’s more likely to tolerate the heat better. If not, add exercise gradually and perhaps back off a bit when the numbers soar.

  3. Sweat (aka evaporation) is the horse’s primary means of cooling himself, but the other methods of heat dissipation—convection, radiation, and even conduction—play a role too. So find a cool breeze and seek shade when the heat seems overpowering. Offer horses a drink before, during, and after exercise and apply/scrape/repeat with cool water.

  4. Avoid hauling in a trailer when it’s extra toasty. With the sun rays heating things up plus reduced air movement around the horse, it can get very warm inside a rig very quickly. If you must haul, go early in the morning or late in the evening—even overnight!—when it’s coolest and the sun’s rays are less intense.

  5. Likewise, if a horse must be worked, choose an early or late time instead of the middle of the day so that the temperature, humidity, and sun aren’t at their strongest levels.

  6. Don’t forget to add salt and other electrolytes to the feed or even to a second bucket of water. Normal equine feedstuffs (hay, pasture, grain) don’t meet horses’ daily requirements for sodium. Plus when it’s hot and they’re sweating out a lot of sodium and chloride, horses can become even more deficient in these and other minerals.

Maybe on those really hot, humid days where there’s no wind, no cloud cover, and the sun is beating down, it’s time for an easy groundwork review, an extra grooming session, or a thorough tack cleaning!


SmartPak strongly encourages you to consult your veterinarian regarding specific questions about your horse's health. This information is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease, and is purely educational.