MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — On a 90-plus-degree day, the first winner at Canterbury Park Friday night was a horse named Polar Express.
Besides the drinks, that was about the only cool thing at the racetrack as the humans and the animals tried to beat the heat.
“Horses don’t sweat very efficiently, which is one way of losing heat,” said Lynn Hovda, the chief commissioned veterinarian of the Minnesota Racing Commission. “They also don’t breathe through their mouth, like humans or dogs can.”
The races were delayed about 20 minutes on Friday because of the scorching heat, leaving veterinarians to look for creative solutions to keep the horses cool.
“We carry what are called cooling blankets or ice blankets,” Hovda said. “They live in a tub of ice, and if we have a horse that gets too hot, we just take them out and put them on their back.”
Before the jockeys even made it to the starting gate, Hovda and her team removed four to five horses from the night’s races that had problems in the heat before to make sure they stayed safe.
But unlike humans, these horses often train in warmer climates and are used to working hard when it is hot outside.
“Horses are pretty fit … conditioned athletes … and some of the people who work here are not quite so fit,” Hovda said.
The races were not the only thing impacted by the sun and humidity. Summer fun was put on hold at more than a dozen Minneapolis community centers without air conditioning. When the heat index hit 105, they were forced to close early. The city also canceled all of their park and rec programs for the day.