1. Keep Your Helmet Cool
After you ride, do you keep your helmet in your vehicle's trunk or in your trailer's tack room? It's great to keep your helmet handy, but note that helmets aren't made to be stored in the heat.
Don't ever throw your helmet in a car trunk, where temps can reach more than 160 degrees Fahrenheit?too intense for helmet materials. That heat can cause the helmet's structures to break down, compromising its protection capabilities in case you fall off your horse.
To preserve your helmet's integrity, keep it out of the sun when it's not in use, and store it in a tote or carrying bag where the fabric can wick moisture from the helmet and keep it dry.
For more tips on how to care for your helmet, check out Troxel's safety site: www.troxelhelmets.com/safety.
2. Be Sunscreen Smart
Coppertone's MyUVAlert app from Apple reminds you when it's time to reapply sunscreen and delivers the latest ultraviolet index for your location. Keep in mind that UV rays can be strong enough to burn even if it's cloudy or when you're in a dense forest.
The free app also charts your local weather and provides links to a radar map.
Look for a nongreasy sunscreen designed for sports, and buy a new bottle each year ? expired lotions won't defend you as well against the elements.
3. Ride in Moonlight
If summer heat and humidity limits your riding time, consider planning a moonlit ride with your trail buddies. Slap on the bug repellent, and head out on moonstruck trails.
First, make a safety plan. Plan your ride close to the summer's full moons; in 2013, the full moon will occur on June 23, July 22, August 20, and September 19.
Travel a familiar trail, and plan your route ahead of time. Know what local critters you might run into, and plan accordingly.
Tell someone where your riding group is headed and when you expect to be back. Wear reflective riding gear (especially if you must cross roads), and take a flashlight
??? Amy Matthews, Montgomery, Alabama
4. Carry Water
This collapsible water bottle is easy to stash in your saddlebag?and it'll stand up in your truck's cup holders without clumsily flopping to the floor. The "anti-bottle" by Vapur (www.vapur.us) is BPA-free, stands up or clips onto your saddle's D-rings when full, then rolls up for easy storage in your saddlebags when empty.
When you get home, wash the bottle in your dishwasher's top rack. Prepare for your next ride by filling the bottle and placing it in the freezer. You'll have cold water all day on the trail.
5. Buy Helmet-Friendly Sunglasses
On a recent trail ride, my helmet tapped a tree branch, and although the pressure wasn't intense, I felt a slam against the bridge of my nose. I can only imagine what could've happened if I'd hit my head harder or, worse, suffered a fall.
The solution? Make sure your glasses will fit well under your helmet with room to spare. When shopping for glasses, take your helmet with you. Look for sunglasses designed with a slim, sporty look. I've found that designs without a frame at the top work best.
Also, look for lenses made from a shatterproof polycarbonate material, and padding over the nose that's soft, cushioned, and well-attached.
6. Brush out Burrs
Summer trails are full of dry burrs and thistles. Spray on a mane-and-tail conditioner before your ride, and brush your horse after every ride. One brush perfect for his mane and tail is the Knot Genie (www.knotgenie.com). This brush, designed for people, resembles a currycomb; its ergonomic shape fits inside the palm of your hand. Its teeth easily work through long hair, due to varying bristle heights.
The teeth are all rather short, so anchor your free hand on the opposite side of your horse's mane as you brushed, to work through knots. A Teeny Genie is available for young riders.
7. Downsize Your Wallet
You don't want to tote your chunky wallet with you on long summer rides. But it isn't always safe to keep your wallet hidden in your truck at a trailhead or campsite. Before you leave for your next trail-riding trip, take a moment to downsize your wallet. Only keep originals of your crucial credit cards, plus your driver's license, and pack them in a smaller wallet that will fit in your saddlebag or a zippered pocket.