When you’re sitting in the truck with the air conditioning cranking, it can be easy to forget just how hot it can get in the trailer behind you. There are reports that a horse riding in a horse trailer exerts as much muscular effort as if it walked the whole way. Trailering can zap a horse’s energy and its hydration.
The inside of a horse trailer can become 20 degrees warmer than the air temperature outside. Horses working to keep their balance in such conditions can quickly become stressed, fatigued, and dangerously overheated.
Although it’s not ideal, sometimes it’s necessary to haul in hot weather. For days it’s hot out and you’ll be traveling, try timing the trip for when it is cooler, such as in the early morning or late evening, to help reduce heat stress on those enclosed horses.
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 by using screens or bars so you can leave the drop-down windows open.
- Use a fly mask to protect your horse’s eyes against debris when windows are open.
- Install a thermometer inside the trailer to give you an idea of the conditions your horse is experiencing.
- 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 and refill the hay bags.
- Haul your horses in an insulated trailer when possible 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.
- Skip sheets or coolers, even to “keep them clean.” They’ll overheat and arrive sweat-stained.
- Park in shaded spots during stops.
Once you’ve arrived at your destination, unload and offer more water as soon as you can do so safely.
By Nancy S. Loving, DVM