Horse Trailering Tips, Too Hot To Trailer Or Ride A Horse? “How Hot Is Too Hot To Ride?” Temperature + Humidity Level = 130 or higher…BEWARE!
Horses get hotter much faster than you and I and are more susceptible to the effects of heat stress. It only takes approx. 17 minutes of moderate intensity exercise in hot, humid weather to raise a horse’s temperature to dangerous levels. That’s three to 10 times faster than in humans. Horses feel the heat much worse than we do.
Horses are more susceptible to heat stress for several reasons. One reason, they are larger and have a higher percentage of active muscle than people do during exercise. When muscles are being used, they produce a lot of heat.
Horses also rely to a significant extent on sweating to cool them off. They can sweat 15 to 20 litres per hour in cool, dry conditions and up to 30 litres per hour in hot, humid conditions, but only 25 to 30 per cent of the sweat produced is effective in cooling the horse by evaporation. The salts in horse sweat are also four times as concentrated as in human sweat. Those salts have to be replaced. Just giving the horse water will not rehydrate a dehydrated horse. When horses drink plain water, it dilutes their body fluids, and their bodies respond by trying to get rid of more water and more electrolytes.
Teach your horse to drink an electrolyte solution ― water with the right proportion of salts dissolved in it to replace sweat losses. “Start with a small amount in the water, allowing the horse to get used to the taste, and gradually increase it over days and weeks until you have reached the manufacturer’s recommendation. Keeping your horse properly hydrated is the most important step in protecting it against the harmful effects of heat. Many riders will train their horses in the mornings or evenings, when it’s cool, then go to a competition held during the hottest part of the day. You need to get horses used to being ridden in the heat and allow them to develop the full spectrum of beneficial adaptations that come with heat acclimation. Horses who have been through a process of heat acclimation will lose more heat through sweating and respiration and will be better able to stay hydrated because they are more likely to drink.
When your horse is hot, look for shade and breezes to help cool it down, never use a blanket or “cooler” on a horse that is sweating. The best way to cool a horse quickly is to rinse the horse’s body repeatedly with cold water and scrape off the excess water. You can cool a horse two degrees in 10 minutes this way: pour on the water, scrape it off, pour on more, and just keep repeating it, The scraping part is important because otherwise the water will be trapped in the horse’s hair and will quickly warm up. By scraping and pouring on fresh, cold water you keep the cooling process going.
“How Hot Is Too Hot In Your Horse Trailer?”
You can stay cool and comfy in the cab of your truck while running the A/C and sipping on cold drinks, but your horse doesn’t have that luxury, unless you have an airconditioned horse trailer!
Traveling with your horse in a horse trailer can be dangerous if they become over heated and dehydrated. Here are a few tips to ensure that your horse is safe traveling on these hot summer days.
• Water & Electrolytes: It is important to make sure your horse is hydrated before they step foot on the trailer. Administer electrolytes the night before and the morning of a big trip. You can also increase your horse’s water intake by wetting his grain mixture. You can add the electrolytes to the feed or give directly in the mouth with the paste type electrolytes. It is not recommended to add to the water as some will give a taste that the horse does not like, therefore the horse will not drink the liquids needed before a long haul.
• Once you are on the road keep a careful eye on your horse, watching for signs of heat distress such as excessive sweating, flared nostrils and increased respiratory rate. As the heat stress worsens, a horse might stop sweating and become depressed. The gums will appear tacky (not moist) and turn a brighter shade of pink than normal. If you pinch the skin on the horse’s neck, a dehydrated horse’s skin will not spring back. Most likely they will not want to drink water once they reach this point of distress.
• Cool Down: If your horse is in distress from the heat, you are going to need to cool them down with a running hose. Find a shaded area where the horse can rest. Run cool water over the legs, head and neck which helps transfer heat from the body to the water which aids in cooling. If a fan is available, this will help increase evaporation of water from the horse’s skin. Make clean, cool water is available if the horse wants to drink. If your horse does not improve as they are cooled down, contact the local veterinarian. Remember that early intervention is more effective, faster, and less expensive than letting your horse reach a critical point of heat distress.
• Avoid any sort of extreme heat distress for your horse. Avoid high heat and humidity, days over 90 degrees when possible. In the summer months, travel should be done as early as possible in the morning or late in the evening to take advantage of the cooler temperatures. Keep gas or refreshment stops as brief as possible since the trailer heats up the most when air is not flowing steadily. Check your horse at each of these stops and offer water. Keep moving as much as possible to create wind. Avoid routes that take you through high traffic areas that may cause lots of stopping and standing. Do not stop for a full meal if your horses are on the trailer. DO NOT leave your horses in a parked trailer! Temps inside a parked trailer rise just as temps inside a parked car do!
• Lastly, shipping boots and sheets may make your horse hotter in warm weather so you should consider leaving those off if your horse travels calmly. Increasing the airflow in your trailer by opening ceiling vents and drop down windows (keep the screen closed) is great but will also increase the amount of hay and dust moving around. Consider shipping in a fly mask to protect the eyes.
Lastly I wanted to talk about is keeping our horses safe while trailering. I see way to many updates on social media about trailering accidents. Some are completely out of our hands, caused by other drivers, others could be avoided. Our horses trust us completely when they step up into the trailer so we need to do everything we possibly can to keep them safe.
Below are a few online tips on maintaining control of your vehicle and horse trailer in potentially dangerous situations:
• Swaying or Fishtailing: If you should suddenly need to swerve or turn hard, be aware that this can cause a load shift in your trailer. Horses are top-heavy, and their weight will shift during a sudden turn, changing the stability of the trailer. As a result, the trailer may sway or fishtail. To prevent loss of control, it is important to keep forward motion and tension on the hitch.
• Stay alert and know how to react properly to swaying or fishtailing: Be sure to apply only the trailer brake and slow down in short pulses. The drag on the trailer will bring it back into alignment with the tow vehicle, thus preventing a jackknife. Once the trailer is under control again, you may apply the brakes on the tow vehicle. Applying the brakes on the tow vehicle before the trailer is under control can result in making a bad situation even worse.
• Stopping Suddenly: If a situation arises in which you must stop the tow vehicle suddenly, use your side-view mirrors to make certain that the trailer does not begin to jackknife out of control. If you notice that the trailer is swinging out of its lane, let up on the brakes so that your vehicle’s tires can regain traction. Whatever you do, don’t apply the trailer’s handbrake! If the trailer is going into a jackknife, its brakes are already locked up! Once the tow vehicle has regained its grip on the road, the trailer will begin to follow the vehicle and will straighten out.
• Navigating Steep Hills: Always use a lower gear when going up or down steep hills. This reduces stress on your towing vehicle’s engine. When ascending a long uphill grade, keep your speed at 45 mph or less. The slower speed will help prevent overheating of your towing vehicle’s motor. If you feel the trailer pushing you as you descend a hill, apply the trailer’s brakes manually to slow it down.
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