Riding at High Altitude

With the annual pilgrimage to Rebecca Farm in Montana getting closer, staying healthy at altitude (for both horse and rider) is on everyone’s mind.

The symptoms of altitude sickness are not what you want to be experiencing when mounted: your balance is off, you might have a headache or feel dizzy, you might get a nosebleed, or vomit. Even highly conditioned athletes can suffer from altitude sickness. The higher and faster you climb, the worse the symptoms will be. Because you take in less oxygen with each breath, your body tries to compensate by breathing faster. Your face, hands, and feet may get puffy.

Ginger can help with nausea, so drinking a natural ginger soda is recommended. Christopher Hobbs, the renowned herbalist believes ginger to be very beneficial for treating altitude sickness, as it plays a pivotal role in treating mild levels of altitude sickness. It is advisable to mix 20 drops of ginger liquid with half cup of water in case you suffer from altitude sickness.

The best way to prevent altitude sickness is to drink water. Lots of it! Avoid caffeine and alcohol which are diuretics. Make sure your horse is well hydrated, especially after cross country. The rule of thumb is to double your water intake.

One of things that can happen at altitude is that fluid from the blood vessels leaks into the tissues surrounding the veins and capillaries in the lungs. You, or your horse, might develop a cough. Once you descend elevation, your body will reabsorb the fluid and the cough will disappear.

As I prepare horses for working at altitude, I take extra time with the intercostals (between each rib) and the pectorals, to make sure they are not restricting deep breaths in the chest and trunk.

Getting to the horse show a few days early to give yourself and your horse time to rest and acclimatize after a long drive is worth the extra expense.


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