Beat the heat with tips and technology that’ll keep you and your horse cool and comfortable all summer long.
By Kaycie Timm
Summer months bring more daylight, which might allow you to spend more time in the barn. But this season also ushers in higher temperatures, turning those extra hours into hot, sweaty misery for you and your horses. We’ve compiled a few preventative measures from an experienced pro and several NRHA Corporate Partners so you can combat the heat and stay cool this summer.
Start on the Inside
NRHA Professional Martin Muehlstaetter of Scottsdale, Arizona, has endured his share of high temperatures. Along the way, he’s learned how to keep the heat from halting his business. The first key to staying cool: insulate. While you might associate insulating your barn with keeping it warm, Muehlstaetter has found that a well-insulated building allows cooling elements, such as a mist system or fans, to work more efficiently.
“I don’t know much about the snow, but I can sure tell you about the heat,” Muehlstaetter joked. “The main thing is that the barn is insulated—not to keep the heat in, but to keep the heat out.”
Once it’s insulated, you can choose to equip your facility with fans, a mist system, or both, depending on your specific needs and the climate where you live. In Muehlstaetter’s experience, the intense, dry heat common to desert regions like Arizona is best combated by a combination of both.
“We have a commercial misting system in our barn,” he explained. “It’s like a fly-control system, but it runs constantly, with two nozzles in each stall and one pointing toward the aisleway. We have a substantial misting system in our covered arena, too. Both are stainless-steel with high-pressure pumps.”
Like any investment, a mist system requires care to continue functioning at its best. Most companies provide installation and offer future care, depending on the location of your property. You’ll need to take water quality, frequency of use, and the type of facility into account when determining how frequently your system will need maintenance.
“Our system gets serviced every two weeks from April to October, because we have a lot of calcium in our water,” Muehlstaetter said. “There’s a filtration system, too.”
For areas known for extreme heat combined with high humidity, you might want to opt for a high-quality fan system rather than adding more moisture to the air with misters. Or, in a dry region like Arizona, installing fans can help make your mist system even more effective.
“In addition to our mist system, we have fans in all the stalls, wash racks, and aisleways, just to keep the air moving,” Muehlstaetter revealed. “We used to get the average small box fans until a few years ago, when we upgraded to commercial-type units. It makes a huge difference.”
No matter the size or type of facility you operate, a commercial fan system can be tailored to suit your needs—and your budget.
“Fans are useful in facilities of all sizes, from personal barns and riding arenas to show grounds,” shared Hunter Harris, national accounts manager for Big Ass Fans. “They tend to be a very efficient way to provide cooling inside larger spaces. You want to take care of your horse, and air moving across his skin helps keep him more comfortable in his living space. That air movement can also act as a pest deterrent, so the combination of effects generated by a fan system is really a win-win.”
While your first instinct might be to rely on inexpensive box fans to get the job done, it can be a more economical choice in the long run to opt for specially designed commercial-grade fans. Unlike a standard box fan that will likely need to be replaced after only a few months of use, commercial fan systems are designed to last—and they’re more efficient, quieter, and even more visually appealing than the standard plastic variety.
“People take pride in their barns—they want them to be nice, clean, and attractive,” Harris explained. “That’s why we suggest installing something that will efficiently cool your barn and that you can take pride in. A product like the Powerfoil X3.0 has a sealed gear box, so it works well in an environment with particulate dust, like in a barn. Our directional fans are fixed, mounted units that aren’t obtrusive and offer 11 different speeds, so you have complete control. If you have a logo or a brand, we can put that on your fans, too, so they’re branded especially for your barn or business.”
As an NRHA member, you’re eligible for the NTRA Advantage’s Equine Discount Program, which allows you to save 25% off your initial investment with Big Ass Fans. Visit bigassfans.com to see what options would best fit your needs.
Add the Final Layer
Even with the help of fans and mist systems, summer heat can still take its toll. Another key element in preparing to face blistering temperatures is choosing an appropriate wardrobe to keep you as cool as possible, whether you’re training at home or hard at work in the show pen.
“Here in Arizona, just a baseball cap doesn’t cut it for walking from the barn to the arena,” Muehlstaetter admitted. “I wear a Shorty’s straw hat all summer long, just to give me a little extra shade and protection.”
In addition to a hat that’ll offer shade without trapping in heat, you’ll want to select breathable clothing that wicks away sweat and offers defense from the sun. NRHA Corporate Partner CINCH offers two lines that are specifically designed with those intentions in mind to make the heat just a bit more bearable.
“Breaking a sweat on a hot day is brutal enough without an uncomfortable, suffocating shirt,” shared Kelly Steinruck of Miller International, manufacturer of CINCH. “Our breathable, comfortable CINCH ArenaFlex collection is designed with lightweight, moisture-wicking fabric that provides an increased range of motion through four-way stretch. All of our ArenaFlex shirts also offer UPF protection from the sun’s harmful rays.”
CINCH has also taken its classic-fit shirts to a new level of cool with TENCEL-blended fabric, which stays dry, features enhanced breathability, and offers long-lasting quality.
“CINCH is constantly striving to ensure that our clothing is the most comfortable and durable it can be, and our new TENCEL fabric proves that,” Steinruck affirmed. “The smooth fiber surface absorbs moisture more efficiently than cotton to support your body’s natural thermal-regulating mechanism.”
If your wardrobe needs an upgrade to get you ready for summer, shop CINCH gear at cinchjeans.com.
Once you’ve equipped your barn and properly outfitted yourself to face the heat, focus on hydration—both for you and your horse—to stay strong this summer.
“Try to keep from getting overheated by drinking water and staying in the shade as much as possible,” Muehlstaetter cautioned. “The same goes for your horse. If he runs out of gas, remember that tomorrow is another day. Stop riding, make sure he gets cooled off, then put him up for the day.”
Even a properly equipped facility and appropriate attire might not be enough to keep you and your horses from overheating if you live in an especially hot region. But that doesn’t mean you can’t ride—it just requires a more creative, flexible approach.
“Arizona doesn’t do Daylight Saving Time, but we turn the clocks back at my barn,” Muehlstaetter revealed. “In the wintertime, we start riding at 7 a.m. As it gets hotter, we start earlier and earlier, all the way back to 2 a.m. by late summer. In the past, I’ve started as early as midnight and tried to be done riding by 10:30 a.m.”
In addition to switching up your schedule, you might consider designating a specific area for both horses and humans to cool off. Ensure that you and your horse get properly hydrated, too, with electrolytes in your horse’s water and a well-stocked supply of sports drinks for you.
“We have a spot with fans mounted near the arena with some additional mister nozzles so horses can cool off,” Muehlstaetter shared. “We keep all our horses on electrolyte pellets, and I have a big trough at the arena that stays full of water with added electrolytes.”