In the mist of blasting summer weather EMSA’s Newsletter looks at ways to prepare for, hydrate and cool to avoid heat related illness during strenuous exercise with horses. There is solid scientific and medical information about preparation, training and acclimatization when you know you will be competing or engaging intense exercise in high heat and humidity. Prevention requires proper attention to risk factors, symptoms and common sense.
The Summer Newsletter looks at problems related to heat illness. When air temperature nears body temperature we start taking heat out of the air into our relatively cooler bodies. Add the expected exercise induced increase in body temperature (exercising muscles create 10-20 times more heat than resting muscles) the potential heat illness escalates. When the body cannot get rid of this excess heat through evaporation (when humidity is high), heat illness can result.
With sustained exercise, potential for heat related illness over the day and /or multiple days; we have to pay special attention. Overheating, loss of electrolytes and fluids contribute decreased performance, early fatigue, nausea, vomiting, confusion and combativeness. From the individual perspective, realistic recognition of the risks of excess weight, current illness (including certain medications), insufficient training inadequate acclimatization before the event are factors to be addressed in perpetration. Riders should eat a well-balanced diet and show up hydrated. Early recognition of heat or hydration problems can be remediated on the field of play; though this requires knowledgeable management.
From a management standpoint proactive organizers, EMS support in education and management before and during the event, recognition of site specific environmental factors, a solid facility plan including hydration and cooling locations can help with prevention and onsite treatment. If the emergency requires 911 engagement, medical protocols recommend cool first then transport.
Drs. Stanitski and Maykuth translate the medical and scientific literature on heat related illness. Stanitski covers key points for perpetration, activity and recovery. Maykuth‘s article reflects on the work done for the equine exercise physiology done in preparation for the Atlanta Olympics noting similarities to the human heat illness, cooling and hydration concerns. There is a special article on heat related issues in children. Leslie Threikeld discusses some organizational considerations focused on Eventing which apply broadly to all horse activities conducted in hear and humidity. The Newsletter is rounded out with an article by Debbie Bennett illustrating a result of forgetting your helmet.