Polo Players Edition

AUG 2018

Polo Players' Edition is the official publication of the U.S. Polo Association. Dedicated to the sport of polo, it features player profiles, game strategy, horse care, playing tips, polo club news and tournament results.

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16 POLO P L A Y E R S E D I T I O N E Q U I N E A T H L E T E BY DR. STEPHANIE MASSEY COLBURN BEATING THE HEAT W ith summer polo seasons in full swing, everyone is looking to have their fun in the sun, but with summer also comes the scorching heat that can be quite perilous to horses in many parts of the country. It can be a challenge to maintain horses in the summer time as the heat causes additional stress on polo ponies. Being able to recognize how riding and playing in the heat can affect your horses and being able to take the steps to both prevent and promptly treat heat-related injuries can be of paramount importance so you and your ponies can have fun while remaining safe during your summer season. You might be asking yourself, when is it too hot to ride and/or play my polo ponies? The general rule is called the "Rule of 150." With this rule you can roughly gauge if it is too hot to ride by adding together the actual temperature in Fahrenheit with the percent humidity. If the total is above 150 this is a general rule not to ride, but there are many different factors that can affect this decision. Before discussing how heat affects polo ponies, first understand how horses are able to regulate their own body temperatures. Horses naturally sweat to cool themselves. The water in sweat on horses' skin evaporates, taking heat with it. Areas with higher humidity pose a problem, as less water will evaporate, decreasing horses' abilities to regulate their temperatures. Horses are most effective at cooling themselves when the total temperature in Fahrenheit and humidity add up to less than 130. Above 130, horses have increased difficulty regulating their body temperatures and cooling themselves. At a heat index of 180 or above, your horse's ability to cool itself is ineffective, thus, when competing at these conditions you put your horse at increased risk of developing illness secondary to heat stress. Horses not only lose water when they sweat, but also electrolytes. Krishona Martinson, PhD, University of Minnesota, wrote an article called Managing Horses During Hot Weather. In it she explains, "Horses lose approximately ten grams of electrolytes per liter of sweat, losing up to five to seven liters of sweat (50-70 grams of electrolytes) per hour in normal riding conditions." Electrolytes play a crucial role within the horse's body and are extremely important for muscle function. In order to perform at their best in the heat, horses need to remain hydrated with fresh water and have electrolytes supplemented, so they can sweat appropriately to cool themselves. What makes horses susceptible to heat stress? There are many different factors to consider when you regard if your horse will be able to safely participate in hot weather conditions. Heat stress commonly occurs in horses that are over worked in areas that are hot and humid when proper conditioning has not been achieved, but can also be seen in fit horses that are affected by anhidrosis (inability to sweat), or have been moved from cool to hot climates for competition without sufficient acclimation time. For horses traveling to compete from cool, dry climates to more hot and humid conditions, a 15- to 21-day acclimation period is recommended to help prevent heat stress during exercise. Also, gauge your horse's fitness level, a weekend warrior is going to have a much harder time conditioning to the heat than a performance horse ridden and exercised daily. Consider the environment you will be riding and playing in. Will your horses have shade while they stand at the trailer? Are you playing during the hottest part of the day? It is also important to take into account any medical conditions your horses might have like Cushings disease, obesity, anhidrosis, or respiratory Take precautions with your horses when temperatures begin to rise

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