A Tip For Working In The Heat

Lizzie and I had our 1st lesson since last autumn with Pammy this week. Of course, not only were we very rusty when it comes to being put through our paces, and a bit unfit after our enforced saddle-related quiet spell, but it was a touch hotter than we are used to. Here in the SW of England we have not had a warm spring, and suddenly the sun was out and we were indoors, being ‘beasted’ by Pammy as my friend Helen calls it. Oh my word did we work, and did we end up dripping. More on this next time though.

As the weather has continued to be truly summery, and today we battled the heat and horse flies to have a speed-schooling session (yes I would of course ideally ride at 6 in the morning, but as a single parent whose horses are not kept at home, this just isn’t possible), I was reminded of something I learnt a few years ago from Andy Thomas, the then physio to the British Equestrian team riders.

At the Beijing Olympics in 2008 – or Hong Kong as it was for the Equestrian events – heat and humidity were a huge factor for all the competitors. One of the British team had not long had time off for surgery, and so was not at peak fitness. There was no way in the humidity, that they could be expected to do a full warm up and test. So Andy had a plan, and that was to warm up the rider’s core OFF the horse, so that they were primed to ride and could reduce their time in the saddle. It worked.

So why not try it yourself, although be careful not to overdo things and fatigue yourself:

Try a 5-10 minutes on a wobble cushion/foam roller/physio ball; doing some reaction exercises like catching/bouncing a ball whilst standing on 1 leg; balancing with your eyes closed; abdominal preparations exercises, and of course visualisation. Nothing intense, but specific to your needs.

The idea with this approach is that your core is primed to be functioning in the way you need it to be, without you and your horse spending unnecessary time working in the heat. Ideally you would do the same for your horse of course.

Another tip is for when you are washing your horse down after work. When I was in the Pony Club we were taught to wash the horse then scrape the water before walking, and repeat as needed. In fact, this was what I think everyone did for years. Then not long ago I learnt that actually horses cool more quickly and efficiently if the water is not scraped, as the evaporation of the water is what does the cooling, so removing the water reduces evaporation. Obvious really, especially when you think that when you get out of water yourself into cold air, the 1st thing you do is get dry to stop yourself from getting cold.

Enjoy working in the sun if you can, but do it carefully.