Making the Most of Summer with Horses

Emily makes a vow not to complain now that winter is finally a distant memory and everything is...damp.

summer with horses
Photo courtesy Adam Reck/Shutterstock

This winter, while I clenched my horse’s freezing metal bit between my thighs to warm it up for her, I made a promise. I lifted my eyes skyward and telepathically swore to equestrian higher power Beezie Madden that I would neither whine nor wail about the heat and humidity this year if she would only hasten the arrival of warm weather and make the riding gods bring back the sun. There’s no better season than summer with horses.

The cool weather is a welcome break here in Texas, but four weeks into the season, the bloom is off the rose. It’s dark at 4 p.m., everything is dry, everything is dusty, and I yearn for green grass, turnout, and the end of dragon-longeing season.

So this year, I’m not complaining, both because I promised I wouldn’t look the gift horse of summer in the mouth again, and because there are quite a few points in summer’s favor. That said, I did take a quick peek inside the horse’s mouth, and I have a few, um, notes.

The Heat is On

First, you must allow me to tell you how ardently I adore the warm weather. I don’t care how much I sweat. The heat is so deliciously soft on my exhausted winter skin. Short hair coats on the horses! Short sleeves! Short work of all the cleaning I’ve been postponing. I can spray everything down, because guess what? It’ll dry!

Except, ahem, that it’s not “warm.” It’s hot. So, you’ll need to implement extra tactics to fully enjoy your summer with horses despite the heat.

‘Tis the season to down an electrolyte packet dissolved in a full water bottle before I even don my breeches. Forgetting to hydrate is an inconvenience in the fall, winter, and spring. In summer, it’s a one-way ticket to my heatstroke-riddled shell of a body being shaken awake by an alarmed spouse, who has found me asleep on the floor where I sat down for a quick second to take off my boot socks.

And it’s sweaty. It’s sweatier than an adult amateur who just realized she memorized the wrong course at her first rated show. Has anyone ever been this sweaty? Short sleeves, no sleeves, fully nude, it doesn’t matter, I’m going to leave the barn icky at a minimum, and more likely soaking wet. Horse ownership during summer brings interesting, yet rewarding, consequences.

Horse Baths

Next, it would be impossible for me to overstate my appreciation for the ability to (finally!) bathe my horse. Baths! Baths forever! And the months ahead are full of them. No more currying until my arm is sore, hot toweling, and minding a giant fleece cooler- wrapped mare for an hour while I wait for her to be dry enough to blanket. A quick spritz! A quick scrape! And we’re off! To graze! In the 7 p.m. sun!

On the other hand, I know I said “baths forever,” but baths forever? And it won’t be a quick spritz and scrape, because my horse is sweaty in ways and places that cannot be erased with a quick anything. She needs an actual bath, which she resents, with actual shampoo, which she loathes. And damp legs mean fungus, and fungus means special soaps, and special soaps means more baths, and more baths mean more fungus. And now my mare’s mad. Apologize.

Wet Everything

In addition, let me assure you I really love the enthusiasm with which you tackled my moaning about the lack of moisture in the air all winter. The dry air is gone! The dry hands are gone! The dry hooves are gone! The horsey dandruff is gone! The rubbed-raw tops of dry horse tails are gone!

But also: the dry air is gone. The dry hooves are gone. And now my horse is rubbing the top of her tail because she is irritated from merely existing in the putrid atmosphere. And now she’s showing a full white corner of her eyeball as I slather her with potions to prevent her from balding in the muggy, sticky heat.

Since the summer started, everything in my horse life has been running a low-grade fever of “moist.” It doesn’t matter how many desiccants and deodorizing packs I cram into my drenched helmet and steamy boots. My helmet liner is going to be wet tomorrow. My boots are going to mildew. And in the end, I will beg for blanket season.

Saving Daylight

Finally, whomever stepped up and made summer days last longer—you’re my hero. There are roughly 39 hours of sunlight in every day, which means maximum hours to spend at the barn after I leave the office.

And I have nothing to add here. Extra summer daylight hours are a heaven-sent apology from Beezie herself for the five seconds of civil twilight we have to ride in every day during the winter. And even I wouldn’t dare complain about that.

Happy hydration. Happy trails. Happy summer.

This article about summer with horses originally appeared in the July 2021 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!


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