Fitness

7 Secret Weapons for Surviving the Heat

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Heat exhaustion is a very real, and very serious, concern when it comes to the summer heat. Living and riding in the dead of summer in South Florida, I have learned some secrets to keeping myself protected from the sun and the heat. There are quite a few things that can be done to help your body cope in extreme heat but sometimes ‘just one more horse…’ isn’t in your horse’s best interest, or yours. Check out my tips below for keeping cool when the weather heats up.

SECRET WEAPON #1: WATER – This one is a no brainer, yet still, so many people neglect the very important concept of keeping hydrated. On a normal work day, I consume about one gallon of water. When it is extra hot, I make sure to take a few big sips before riding and make an effort to drink 16 oz (or 1 water bottle) after dismounting.

 

SECRET WEAPON #2: ELECTROLYTES

Gatorade is a fine choice, but I am a big believer in Pedialyte! I know what you’re thinking: the drink from the baby aisle? Yes! Pedialyte is known for helping infants to stay hydrated when ill and is also my go-to electrolyte solution. It contains more sodium and less sugar than most sports drinks, and no high fructose corn syrup. The best part? It’s even available in single serving powder packets for easy use on the go!

 

SECRET WEAPON #3: MIND YOUR MELON

I don’t care how hot it is. If you are riding, wear your helmet! Remember back in grade school when you learned that black absorbs heat and white reflects it? Then where is the logic behind wearing a black helmet in the middle of summer?! I opt to trade my trendy black, blinged-out helmet for a cheap, white plastic helmet – perfect for my long days baking under the Florida sun. Not to mention that by doing so, I also avoid the dreaded ‘my black helmet is now brown’ color-fading caused by constant and intense exposure to the Florida sunshine.

While I am hosing down my horse after a ride, I make sure to take the opportunity to hose myself down as well. Soaking my hair cools my head and neck, rapidly decreasing my body temperature. These ‘pulse points’, or areas that are pumping the most blood throughout the rest of your body, along with your wrists, ankles, inner thighs, back of knees and elbows are good areas to focus on cooling down in order to speed up the process and avoid over-heating.

 

SECRET WEAPON #4: ICE VEST

During my first summer training in Florida, the only way I could get through 6-8 horses a day was by wearing an ice vest. There are different types and brands to choose from, but I personally prefer those with built-in gel packs. This article explains the pros and cons of many of the options on the market. Most are light-weight and well-fitted, so they should not interfere with your range of motion when riding. You can also try placing a damp hand towel in the freezer, then draping it over your neck and shoulders for a quick and easy DIY solution.

 

SECRET WEAPON #5: CLOTHING

As a blonde haired, blue eyed Irish girl whose mother has had three types of skin cancer, protecting my skin from the sun is a must. During my first year in Florida, I chose to ride in polo shirts. In addition to the dreaded farmer’s tan, it didn’t take long for me to see changes in freckles and moles on my neck and arms – early warning signs that I was getting too much sun. Now, no matter the temperature, I always opt for long sleeves. With the advances in moisture-wicking, ventilated, light-weight, UPF fabrics, it is more tolerable to stay covered up from head to toe – and some will even tell you that it keeps you cooler by creating a barrier between your skin and the sun. Also, don’t forget sunscreen for all the areas you can’t cover with clothing; your helmet and glasses won’t protect your nose, ears and cheeks from UV rays.

TMI ALERT: I constantly battle heat rashes in unmentionable areas during the sweaty summer months. To combat it, I put away my pretty Pikeurs and pull out my Irideon tights – the lighter weight fabric and minimal seaming (think about it – when you get clothing rubs it’s usually in seamed areas that create the most friction) makes all the difference! Regular application of baby powder to areas that come in contact with the saddle will help to keep you dry and cut down on friction. 

 

SECRET WEAPON #6: TAKE A BREAK IN THE A/C

On hot days, my favorite things to do are to clean tack and roll polos. Why? Because the laundry room and tack room are air-conditioned! Sometimes, your body needs to escape the heat for a few minutes to get your core temperature back to normal.

 

SECRET WEAPON #7: TAKE A DIP

If all else fails, call it a day and go for a swim, like Matilda and Legacy!

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Laura Killian

Grand Prix dressage rider who has earned her USDF Bronze, Silver and Gold medals. She operates her business, Laura Ashey Dressage, in Wellington Florida year-round. In addition to riding, Laura enjoys staying active lifting weights, running, training judo and jiu-jitsu, dancing, twirling baton and trying new and adventurous outdoor activities.

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