While sitting in the comfortable seat of the pickup truck, it’s easy to overlook the stress under which your horse may be traveling in the trailer towed behind you. There are reports that a horse riding in a horse trailer exerts as much muscular effort as if he had walked the whole way. In addition, a long-distance haul is fraught with insults to the horse’s respiratory tract and immune system, as well as taking a toll on his energy, hydration and body condition. What can you do to ease his comfort, particularly in hot weather?
Here are some tips to help your horse handle the heat and stress of hauling in hot weather.
- Provide sufficient ventilation by opening windows and vents as much as possible. Use screens or bars over the window openings so you can leave the drop-down windows open to allow fresh air to circulate.
- Use a fly mask to protect your horse’s eyes against debris when windows are open.
- Install a thermometer within the trailer to give you an idea of the conditions your horse is experiencing. Then, make adjustments accordingly, such as frequency and length of rest stops or time of day to travel.
- Stop at least every four hours to allow the horse to rest for 20-30 minutes. This is a good time to provide fresh water, refill the hay bags, and clean feces- and urine-soaked bedding from the trailer. That will cut down on microbes and urine fumes in the trailer atmosphere, which helps respiratory tract health. It is also good practice to unload your horse when possible and to let him walk around and graze a bit. Lowering his head helps clear the airways of accumulated particulates and debris.
- In summer heat, when at all possible, haul your horses in an insulated trailer and try to travel during the coolest parts of the day and night. In really hot weather, it helps to soak your horse’s neck, chest and legs during rest stops to cool him off.
Monitor your horse’s vital signs at every opportunity and keep a close eye on feed and water intake, as well as manure and urine output while on the road. This enables you to identify simmering problems before they turn into a full-blown crisis.