Reprinted from www.ofhorse.com
by Ellison Hartley
Summer is the time of year that's great for riding since it stays light out so late! There are definitely pros and cons to summer riding, but no matter what, there are things you and your horse can do to make the experience more enjoyable.
The first thing I would suggest is to avoid the heat of the day. At our farm, our lessons run in the summer from 8 am - 12 pm, and then start again at 6:00 pm and run until 9:00 pm.
Unfortunately, we do not have anywhere shaded to ride. Riding early and late is really the best option for us and our horses.
If you have trail access, riding in the shade might be a better option. Just remember to bring your horse and bug spray—flies and ticks can be especially bad in the summer.
And speaking of creepy crawlies, putting a fly bonnet on your horse will keep the flies out of his ears and from near his eyes. This will make him a lot more comfortable, and hopefully, make for a more pleasant ride for you!
If you have a young horse or are in a strict training program, time off or taking it easy in the summer might not be an option. If you are schooling a young horse or training for competitions, keeping up with your riding schedule is important.
I suggest to my students that they avoid mid-day rides. I also suggest that they keep their sessions short and sweet. Neither we or our horses have as much patience in the heat of summer.
No matter what, do a proper warm-up then decide what you want to work on and school that one thing until you are happy with it. After that, cool off and call it a day. If you are a pleasure rider, there is no need for you or your horse to overdo it in the summer.
In my opinion, getting on your horse for a half hour a day four for five days a week should be sufficient to keep him going well. Going round and round out in the heat trying to perfect something is just asking for getting into a fight with your horse. Set yourself up for success! None of us are going to win a fight with a horse. We all know that.
We can't discuss summer riding without discussing the importance of staying hydrated. Drink lots of water and make sure your horse has access to clean water at all times.
For horses who don't drink enough water, you may consider supplementing them with electrolytes, especially if they work extra hard or live outdoors 24/7.
If your horse lives outside all the time, he hopefully has access to some shade! If the flies are really bad, he would probably appreciate a fly mask. I sometimes have mixed feelings on fly masks just because I see how sweaty the horse's faces get... It is really a matter of opinion!
In summary, I recommend ride early or late. Keep your sessions short and sweet. Don't forget the bug spray. And remember to drink, drink, drink! Have a lazy ride in the shade or relax in the shade with your horse.