Ellison is a professional horse trainer and riding instructor. She runs a summer camp program and offers kids a safe introduction to horses.
Summer Can Be a Great Season for Riding
Summer is the time of year that is great for riding since it stays light out so late! There are definitely pros and cons to summer riding as well as ways that you can make it easier on both you and your horse.
1. Avoid Midday Rides
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 a.m. to 12 p.m. and we resume at 6 p.m. and run until 9:00 p.m.
2. Ride in the Shade or on the Trails
Unfortunately, we do not have anywhere shaded to ride. Riding early and late is really the best option for us and our horses, of course.
If you have trail access from where you keep your horse, riding on the trails in the shade might be a better option. Sometimes in the summer, the flies and ticks can be bad in the woods. Make sure you fly-spray your horse and bug-spray yourself!
Also, putting a fly bonnet on your horse will keep the flies out of his ears and away from his eyes. This will make him a lot more comfortable, and hopefully, make for a more pleasant ride for you!
3. Keep Training Sessions Short and Sweet
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 midday rides. Also, I suggest that they keep their sessions short and sweet. Neither we or our horses have as much patience in the heat of summer. (Not to mention the horses dealing with the flies!)
Do a proper warm up. Then decide what you want to work on and school that one thing until you are happy with it. Then 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 or 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!
4. Hydrate and Use Fly Masks
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, hopefully, he 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 horses' faces get . . . it is really a matter of opinion!
Enjoy the Lazy Days of Summer!
Drink lots of water, ride early or late, keep your sessions short and sweet, and don't forget the bug spray. Lastly, remember to drink, drink, drink! Have a lazy ride in the shade or relax in the shade with your horse—there is a reason why they call it "the lazy days of summer"!