Anne-Marie Cruickshank lives in the Northern Territory. She shares her thoughts on riding in the heat – good advice no matter where in Australia you live.
The mentality before has been, ‘oh no, it’s too hot and we can’t possibly work our horses,’ so you give them time off over the wet and then when the next season begins you’re starting from scratch again and can’t progress.
What we’ve found is that if you just concentrate on ground work, everything you’ve built up over the season is lost. The wet season, or summer, is a really good time to consolidate what you’re doing and then also try to move on to other areas. I really want to encourage people to keep riding, and to do what you and your horse can cope with.
Don’t think that you have to give them six months off, but when riding be aware: if their nostrils are really puffing when you’re working, you’ve probably done enough for that session. It’s about doing what you and they can comfortably maintain. Plan out what you’re going to do, get it done in 30 minutes, and pick your time of the day. I wouldn’t necessarily change what I’m doing, but I aim to get it done in a much shorter time frame.
Be accurate in your riding. If you’re going to go out and just ride around for 30 minutes you’re probably not going to achieve much, but if you plan your ride to be really accurate in your movements and what you ask of the horse, then you won’t have to stay out there forever. Rather than trying to get everything practiced in every session, you have to have a plan; so, are you going to be working on transitions that day, or are you going to work on lateral movements? If you’re working on higher level movements make sure you get them right and then move on. You don’t have the luxury of saying, ‘OK, we’re going to keep going for another 45 minutes’. I’d be looking at doing the same work, but getting in and out of it really quickly and try to make sure I’m working in shade.
Concentrate on riding early in the morning or late in the evening. If I haven’t completed my ride by 10:00am, it’s too late, and I would not start riding again until about 4:00 in the afternoon.
It’s really important for both riders and horses to fully cool down. Riders can do this by hydrating and getting into air conditioning to lower their core temperature as fast
as possible. It’s about looking after yourself as a rider, as well and taking the opportunity to get fit in other ways rather than relying only on riding for fitness.