Whether you live somewhere sunny year round, or just spend the summer month roasting in the sun, sun protection should be a priority. We know that sun exposure can lead to skin cancer, so you should try to prevent unnecessary sun exposure.
As equestrians, we spend a lot of time outside. And while that is great for our mental well being, it can be harmful to your skin to stay in the sun all day long. Did you know that 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer by age 70? If you could prevent yourself from being part of that statistic, wouldn’t you? (Source: skincancer.org)
While horses don’t tend to get skin cancer at the same rate as humans do, it still can occur in horses. Additionally, there could be other reasons you need to protect your horse from the sun. Certain skin and eye colors in horses can make them more sensitive to possible sunburn and you need to take precautions to protect them.
Additionally, you may want to protect your horse’s coat from the sun so as not to bleach it out for your show season.
As you can tell, there are several reasons to protect yourself and your horse from the sun – so what are the best ways to do it?
Sun Protection for the horseback rider
Horseback riders always end up with terrible tan lines – combine always wearing long pants with increased sun exposure on our arms, and you have the dreaded rider’s tan. Therefore we need to focus on protecting our top half since that is where the most sun exposure happens.
Sunscreen is important if you are not going to cover up using another method. Use an SPF of 30 or above for increased protection. There are tons of different sunscreens out there. My three favorite sunscreens are:
- Coola – smells great and doesn’t feel super greasy (I’ve got a texture problem, so you will notice that I HATE greasy/oily sunscreens)
- Blue Lizard – this is a mineral sunscreen and provides great coverage if you are willing to slather up with it.
- Neutrogena Hydro Boost – it is a sunscreen gel and doesn’t feel too greasy (also cheaper then my other two favorites so pick this option if you’re aiming for budget friendly)
You should also wear a sunscreen on your face and reapply every few hours, or as often as the label suggests for coverage.
Facial sunscreen obsession: Supergoop. It is a bit pricey but the texture is awesome and it doesn’t lead to breakouts. This feels so soft and non-greasy, it is really amazing. Supergoop is also perfect as a primer before applying makeup.
If you want something a bit cheaper, I also like Neutrogena Clear Face sunscreen. It is non-greasy and provides great sun protection without clogging pores.
Sun protective clothing for Horseback Riders
If you prefer not to wear tons of sunscreen every day, the best option is to cover your skin from the sun. My favorite sun shirts are bamboo from Free Fly. They are super soft (big requirement in my book), comfortable and lightweight.
If you prefer some neck coverage, then a zip up riding sunshirt would be perfect for you. The zip front allows for better neck and chest coverage.
Another great way to protect yourself from the sun is with a visor or hat. If you are riding, then a helmet visor would be the best thing to use to shield some of the sun from your eyes. I’ll admit I thought these looked kind of funny, but now I can appreciate their usefulness after trying to cover up more from the sun.
When you aren’t riding make sure you use a hat – whatever kind you like best. A wide brimmed sun hat is probably the most effective since it will cover your eyes, face, ears and likely part of your neck and chest from the sun. You can also wear a visor, but make sure to put sunscreen on your scalp if you do that!
Sun Protection for Horses
Different horses need different levels of sun protection. Certain horses, especially those with white faces and often blue eyes, require a lot more protection from the sun.
Thankfully there are quite a few ways to protect your horse from the sun.
First, a fly mask with a long nose is the easiest/least expensive method for covering up a horse that is sensitive to the sun. The best fly mask with nose coverage is the Cashel Long Nose Fly Mask. Cashel offers a strong and durable mask that your horse *usually* won’t destroy immediately.
Sunscreen can be applied to a horse’s white, sensitive areas of their face if they need more protection from the sun. Human sunscreen will work – I like the options I mentioned previously for humans, although horses won’t appreciate any fragrances. Also make sure to pick a sunscreen with a period of water resistance.
Horse Sheet to protect from the sun
If you want to save your horse’s coat from bleaching in the sun, a sheet is going to be your best bet. A fly sheet will provide a fair bit of protection from the sun, but a light summer sheet is your best bet for actually blocking the sun’s rays from hitting your horse.
The Top Sheets:
The Amigo Evolution is a great sheet because it will protect your horse from the sun with woven material, while also keeping flies off. The color and stripe may also help with deterring flies.
The Kool Coat Airstream is a comfortable sheet that offers excellent sun protection for your horse. Its white color is helpful for keeping them cooler as well.
If you horse is sensitive to the sun, consider keeping them in during the day, and turning out at night. That way they will not be exposed to direct sunlight. A lot of horses enjoy being turned out at night, and if it protects your horse – perfect!
To summarize, the best way to protect your horse from the sun is to cover them up (if required) or to keep them out of the sun by turning out at night. The best way to protect yourself is to cover up when needed and use sunscreen. It is pretty simple, but your skin will thank you!!