Let’s Face It: Sun Exposure While Riding

Riding-On-Beach-With-Sun

Let’s face it, equestrians spend a lot of time in the sun which exposes us to the damaging effects of the sun. “You should consider a different hobby,” commented my dermatologist regarding my riding habit during my first visit at age 22. Although I kept riding and enjoying other outside activities, I learned a few things about covering up from the sun exposure while riding.

Why was he so direct about considering a different hobby? The amount of sun exposure inherent with hanging out with horses can increase your risk of skin cancer and wrinkles. Not only are we exposed to the sun working and riding our horses nearly every day, we also get intensified sun exposure as the rays reflect off the sand in an arena or at the beach.

Sun Exposure is a Preventable Risk Factor for All Skin Cancers

“Sun exposure is the most preventable risk factor for all skin cancers, including melanoma.1,2 You can have fun in the sun and decrease your risk of skin cancer. Here’s how you can prevent skin cancer:

  • Seek shade when appropriate. Remember that the sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. If your shadow appears to be shorter than you are, seek shade.
  • Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses, where possible.
  • Generously apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or more to all exposed skin. “Broad-spectrum” provides protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Reapply approximately every two hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating.
  • Use extra caution near water, snow, and sand because they reflect and intensify the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chances of sunburn.
  • Avoid tanning beds. Ultraviolet light from the sun and tanning beds can cause skin cancer and wrinkling. If you want to look tan, consider using a self-tanning product or spray, but continue to use sunscreen with it.

1 American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts and Figures 2011.
2 Robinson, JK. Sun Exposure, Sun Protection and Vitamin D. JAMA 2005; 294: 1541-43.”

The above is an excerpt from the American Academy of Dermatology website.

How to Prevent the Effects of Sun Exposure While Riding

So what can an equestrian do to help prevent the effects of sun exposure and still enjoy all that riding has to offer?

First, sunscreen up! Cover all exposed areas like tops of ears, ear lobes, neck – especially the back of your neck. Sunscreen areas of the chest that a shirt doesn’t cover, the back of hands, of course your face and don’t forget the lips! Reapply the sunscreen to the lips frequently.

Next, wear protective clothing. A long-sleeved shirt keeps the sun off your arms. There are some great “cooling” long-sleeved riding shirts that make riding in the sun and heat pleasurable like the Ariat’s Sunstopper Cooling Long Sleeve or for men Ariat Men’s Classic Fit that has Moisture Movement Evaporative Cooling Technology.

Wear a wide-brimmed hat when working with your horse and for riding. The baseball cap is better than nothing but does not provide full sun coverage for the sides of your face or your neck. A cowboy hat is better than a baseball cap but still with sides that are turned upward, coverage for the sides of your face and neck can be eliminated. I like the Barmah hat for sun coverage.

You should also consider wearing a specially-designed, sun-blocking hat over your helmet when riding. There are several options to add to your helmet for those long trail rides in the sun like EquiVisor Cotton Helmet Visor or the Soless UV-Blocking Helmet Visor.

Cover your hands. Using gloves not only protects your hands from wear while riding, gloves also cover your hands from the sun. Heritage Performance Gloves are a nice lightweight option for hand protection.

Third, don’t forget the sunglasses. Sun exposure is not good for the eyesight. Consider what the Pasadena Eye Associates website has to say regarding sun exposure to the eyes: “Long term exposure to UV radiation can be much more serious. A number of scientific studies and research have shown that exposure to small amounts of UV-B radiation over a period of many years contributes to the development of cataracts; pterigia (tissue growth on the surface of the eye); skin cancer around the eye; and can cause damage to the retina (macular degeneration), the nerve-rich lining of your eye that is used for seeing. Damage to the retina is usually not reversible.”

To protect your eyes from the sun, you might try Duco Polarized Sunglasses.


So go ahead and enjoy hanging out with horses, working them, riding them and loving them, but do so covered up from the sun. Prevent damage to your skin from sun exposure by daily applying sunscreen to all exposed skin, choose to wear long-sleeved shirts, cover your hands with gloves, wear a wide-brimmed hat at all times and don’t forget the sunglasses! Have fun in the sun for years to come.


Just so you know, clicking the above links or product pics will take you directly to the product on either the Riding Warehouse or Amazon site. We provide this service to you for your shopping ease. Yes, we do get a little kick-back from when products are purchased, which helps us continue to bring SLO Horse News stories to you each week. Your price does not change. It’s a win-win! Also for local riders you can order items online and request pick-up – during checkout – at the Riding Warehouse store. Happy Trails!

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Former Pony Clubber, Eventer and Dressage rider who balanced training and showing with getting a college degree (from Cal Poly SLO), becoming a wife and raising a family.

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