Written by Deanna Stoppler of Horse & Sole Hoof Care in Underhill, Vermont
As I drive to my first appointment for the day, the touchscreen in my truck reads 67’F and my weather app reads 97% humidity. It actually feels cool today. The sky is gray and there is a light breeze. However, once the sun comes out the game changes—the temperature will rise to 94’F, and with high humidity it will feel like working in a sauna.
Trimming and shoeing horses in these conditions is difficult. The air is hot and wet, and working on horses is like leaning against a furnace. Most of us have to figure out ways to make it through the day without overheating. Before becoming a farrier, I was an ultrarunner. Many of the tricks I used while racing come in handy when working in hot conditions. These are some of my best methods for staying cool.
My summer wardrobe consists of lightweight polyester, more polyester, and did I mention polyester? I wear a lightweight, short-sleeve shirt that wicks moisture and dries quickly, along with quick-dry shorts. Shorts can be risky when trimming horses, but if you’re aware of how you pick up and release the limb and work on well-behaved horses, wearing shorts is fairly safe.
To keep hoof trimmings from filling my boots, I wear lightweight gaiters. Years ago I used to sew my own gaiters, but now it’s easier to purchase them. These come from the Ultra Gam shop on Etsy.
Use water to cool down
Before leaving the house I tend to douse my head in cold water. I have a lot of thick, long hair. If I wet it in the morning, it will stay wet all day and provide a bit of cooling action. If I get the chance, I’ll dunk my head in a pool or pond later in the day to keep the effect going. If I have a ball cap, I’ll wet that down, as well.
Drinking plenty of fluids with electrolytes is important. When sweating profusely, ingesting water alone is not enough to maintain hydration. Electrolytes allow the body to absorb and balance the amount of water in your body. My favorite source of electrolytes are Nuun tabs.
Thank goodness for high-powered fans. My saving grace during the day is creating a whirlwind of air. Humidity is heavy and makes it difficult for sweat to dry. Fans offer a bit of relief and are dual action—they ward off flies and keep horses more comfortable and less antsy during their trims.
Even though it seems obvious, working in the shade versus direct sunlight is a blessing. Unless the weather is cool, dry, and bug-free, I don’t tend to venture outdoors for trims. I have had friends whose clients have expected them to work outside under the full sun. On a hot, humid day, the answer to that request is no.
Yesterday, I was at a barn near a house that was under construction. The laborers were working on the roof in the full sun. I can’t imagine how they do it. Not on my list of ways to stay cool, that’s for sure.
A couple of years ago, as part of the Easyboot Elite team who glued Easyboots onto many horses competing in the Tevis 100, I was surprised that working in temperatures hovering around 104’F didn’t seem as difficult as working in the 90s back home. The difference—no humidity, a light breeze, and shade.
If dressed appropriately, hydrated, and working in proper conditions, we should be able to continue trimming and shoeing throughout the summer.