Summer is finally here. Although we had a mild winter here in New Jersey, many prayed for warm weather. And June has been unseasonably cold until the recent heat wave in July. The temperature soared from 65 degrees to 98 degrees in a matter of a day- and no one was ready. Especially my dogs, and the horses.
It got me thinking, equestrians all wish for warm weather until we have it. So what are the perks and pitfalls of working with horses in summer?
Not all equestrians are lucky enough to have an indoor riding arena, it’s true. My barn has a Kentucky-style indoor with outside track. It’s pretty cool but difficult to navigate my very large friend, Delight. Especially in his ground-eating canter. So I look forward to riding him outside as much as possible where I can really open him up and get him to extend.
My favorite thing. We are fortunate to have almost 500 acres available to us. So when the weather is too hot to ride (or just because) we take a cool, leisurely trek through the woods. Playing in the stream is encouraged.
What is cuter than a wet horse evading a hose? A horse playing with the water and really enjoying himself. Then you have the perks of grazing your horse to let them dry a little bit before putting them back in the paddock or in their stalls.
Spooky Horses are Lazy
How many of you have spooky horses that cannot be bothered in summer? Like it’s too much effort to even look at that log so they just give up and plod by perfectly.
We all know the trials and tribulations of having to change blankets or rugs all winter long. Does he need the sheet, the medium, or the heavy? A combination to avoid rubs or because it’s hellishly cold? Summer means beautifully naked horses in all their magnificent glory.
I love going to horse shows. Usually as the equine massage therapist on site or as a photographer. Summer has so many opportunities for amazing horse shows, all over our state. So many to choose from!
I hate sweating and feeling sticky. But it doesn’t stop us equestrians. The truest of us ride as long as it is safe for our horses.
I don’t mind leaving the barn smelling like horse. What I do mind is smelling like horses and sweat. It’s not a flattering combination.
The heat is bad enough but when humidity is involved like it often is in the eastern US, it is like riding through soup. My kids, who are off school, complain about watching me ride and drive me insane. It’s not safe for the horses or for my peace of mind.
Flies, ticks, bees. Ugh. To me this is the worst part of summer. I’ve had encounters with stinging wasps, ticks, and biting flies. Not to mention these insects bothering my horse. I’ve ridden when my horse was stung in the leg and bleeding, then began bucking because of the pain. What did that horse ever do to the bee? But my favorite is cantering down a line and swallowing a mouthful of gnats because I couldn’t keep my mouth closed. Protein, anyone? Thus, my desire to create an all-natural insect repellent.
Delight is a large, still growing OTTB. He’s long and downhill, and often trips over his own feet. So it is a chronic issue getting him to extend and move. Some days he’s perfect, others a bit of a struggle. Summer makes him slower than molasses -> which makes riding him more difficult -> which results in me huffing and puffing.
I have three children home from school in summer. They don’t venture off to camp every day, only some days. So summer means letting the kids play at the barn so I can still ride. It means being distracted the entire time and praying that they don’t misbehave.
Summer also means pony camp. For 6 weeks my lessons are pushed from their regularly scheduled programming to evenings because all day every day is pony camp. Granted, this means a bit cooler weather later in the day, but it also wreaks havoc with my schedule. There is no way in Hades that I will ride when pony camp is ongoing. It’s way too chaotic and loud. Did I mention it is loud?
I am not on the show circuit. To be brutally frank, schooling shows are almost too much anxiety for me. It’s a confidence thing. But the few shows I have attended were brutally hot. Even 70 degree days are nearly unbearable to ride in show shirts, jackets, and breeches. I can barely keep going when I’m wearing a moisture-wicking tank. I have major respect for competing amateurs and professionals. Seriously- you are bad a$$.
I love all the perks of equestrian summers, but for me the pitfalls outweigh them. Summer is my least favorite season to work with horses. I will unapologetically choose spring, fall, and even winter.