As we enter the summer months, we must all remain aware of how the weather can affect us and our horses. US Equestrian has received questions from across the country on the rising temperatures and excessive heat, and when it is safe for a horse to compete.

A 'heat index' graphic.To provide guidance to members and competitions, US Equestrian is providing this information graphic that contains content provided by the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP). For this graphic, the term “Heat Index” is the combined total of the temperature (in degrees Fahrenheit) and the humidity. (Ed.: note that this is quite different than the formula used by the National Weather Service to calculate the actual Heat Index)

  • If the total is below 130 (approx. 54.5C), you can enjoy the competition.
  • When the number falls between 130 and 150 (approx 65.5C), you should begin to monitor for potential signs of heat stress.
  • When the number falls between 150 and 180 (approx. 82C), it is critical to monitor for signs of heat stress.
  • If the number is above 180, US Equestrian encourages considering alternative competition times.

To be clear, there is no rule set forth on when to compete or not compete in relation to the heat; however, Dr. Katie Flynn, US Equestrian’s Senior Staff Veterinarian for Equine Health & Biosecurity, has compiled an important list of factors to consider during the summer months.

Quick Tips from Dr. Katie Flynn

Monitor – Monitor horse and human athlete health in hot weather.
Stay Hydrated – It is important that human and horse athletes remain hydrated and stay cool in the shade or in area with fans, when possible.

Heat Stress Signs in a Horse

  • Elevated temperature (105-107 °F)
  • Rapid breathing
  • Rapid pulse
  • Stumbling or weakness
  • Dry skin
  • Dehydration

IMPORTANT NOTE – An overheated horse should be cooled off with cool water, provided fluids for rehydration and placed in the shade or in an area where there is a breeze or fan. If a horse is not back to normal within an hour or signs worsen, contact a veterinarian.

Competition Management – Continually monitor temperature and relative humidity at the event grounds. If the temperature combined with the relative humidity is greater than 180, we recommend cancelling the event for that day or rescheduling classes to early mornings and/or later in the evenings when temperatures and humidity may be lower.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The heat index can vary from location to location and at different times during the day, so it is important to consistently check the temperature and humidity for your location.