Conquer the summer run with helpful tips from world champion Hailey Kinsel on how she keeps herself and her horses healthy all summer long.
This time of year is busy for barrel racers. The summer barrel races in Texas are heating up with added money as high as the temperatures. For those up North, it may be warm enough now that your horses are in shape and ready to get back at it. If you have the rodeo trail on your mind, you may be packing to head West. Whatever the case is, I wish you luck!
As the weather warms up, our horses shed out and we set goals for the summer. How can we keep our horses and ourselves healthy? I grew up in South Texas, where a summer day may be 115 degrees with 80 percent humidity. Those conditions are bearable, proven by the fact I am still functioning, but they can be brutal on the equine and human body. I learned from a young age the importance of keeping your horses cool so they’re not fatigued from daily exercise, making a run or hauling, and more urgently, so they don’t colic or tie-up from dehydration.
In hot climates, you can shorten your daily exercise or pre-race warmup from your usual routine. Change is never a bad thing—a good reminder for patterned people like myself. At a mid-day slack where the sun is hot overhead or an indoor barrel race with no air conditioning, I find an area with the most airflow and shade to allow my horse to cool down and relax after warming up. This may be a shade tree or open doorway with sufficient airflow. By allowing them to cool off before the run, their heart rate lowers and breathing slows down. This prevents overtaxing after the run, and I believe it helps prevent bleeding too. I remove leg boots if I warmed up with them on so tendons and ligaments are not overheated, which causes extra strain in the run. If I can, I allow a sip of water. These little things I learned over time have proven profitable in keeping my horses comfortable on the summer run.
While stalled or penned, I try to find places where my horse can have shade and airflow. I love the chance to build pens on grass, but I try to park where my horses have shade at least a portion of the day, either from the trailer or nearby trees. Keep an eye on white noses for sunburn or grab a Cashel fly mask with the nose cover to prevent it. Sometimes, the only facility one can find is a toasty stall barn. We always pack box fans and extension cords and make the best of it, and get them out of the barn to walk frequently. When hauling on a hot day, keeping the horses hydrated is my biggest concern. If you are a rockstar with automatic waterers in your trailer, bravo! My horses break them, so I do it the old fashioned way—each time we stop, whether for fuel or food, I open the doors and offer water. A nervous horse may not be keen on drinking, but offering water every time we stop has taught some of our more uptight horses to take a drink simply out of habit. Pretty soon, the next time we stop, they are thinking about water. For the more difficult ones there are various tricks, such as wetting your alfalfa, cubes or hay so they get some kind of hydration. Of course the addition of electrolytes and an ulcer-prevention supplement can keep their stomachs feeling happier.
Running around to create the best scenario for our horses can wear us out. Please do not forget about yourself after taking care of them. Take a minute to sit down in the shade and drink plenty of water. I forget to hydrate myself when I’m in the dryer Northern climates, so when watering my horse I use that as a reminder for myself to drink a bottle of water. If you are hot and fatigued before competing, you cannot function at your highest potential as a rider and competitor—your horse is counting on you to be physically and mentally present. As tough as I pretend I am, I ride better when my body is prepared. Getting to the event early enough for proper care of your horses and yourself helps you stay healthy for competing.
I hope these small pieces of advice help you on your summer adventures. Enjoy where the ride takes you next!
Until next time, Hailey Kinsel
Article by Hailey Kinsel, originally published in the June 2019 issue of Barrel Horse News.