As the average temperatures rise, so do the risks of your horse being exposed to serious health problems that range from dehydration or exhaustion to heat stroke. The beginning of May is here, and in some states that already means a seriously hot weather. Trailering could on its own pose risks to your horse. Being enclosed in that little metal box could cause the animal to feel stressed out, hurt himself or depending on travel time, get sick. For this reason, you’d need to take more precaution during the summer to safeguard your horse from possible health risks when trailering.
Here are 10 hot-weather safety tips you can use to reduce risks during horse transport:
1. Let's start with the most obvious one: try to avoid traveling during the hottest hours of the day.
2. Make sure your trailer is in top condition for travel. Keep all tires (including a spare) fully inflated to the maximum PSI shown on the side. This lets the trailer ride cooler in hot weather and prevents the tires from blowing up on hot roads. Get modifications if needed to allow proper ventilation (installing windows and screens in a body shop or fabrication company). If using a trailer without screens on the doors, protect horse’s eyes with fly masks.
3. Ensure that all the trailer vents stay open and unobstructed to allow adequate airflow in the trailer. However, if using the drop down windows without safety bar grills, make sure your horse does not stick his head out the windows as this could cause serious eye injuries from flying debris and bugs.
4. Always carry 2-3 gallons of drinking water per horse and a bucket to offer them when you stop at rest areas for a bite to eat or for fuel. They may not always drink, but it is still important to offer them water every four or five hours so they are properly hydrated.
5. When you make those stops or have to park somewhere, be sure to find shaded areas or at least areas that have a good amount of moving air. If you get stuck in heavy traffic, try to create as much ventilation in the trailer as possible without having to unload your horse.
6. In buying a trailer for horse transport, stick to the ones with cooling features. Avoid dark exterior colors like dark blue, dark green, red or black, as well as single walls which all contribute to heat. Instead, get a trailer with dual-insulated walls as they are able to stay cooler on the inside than it is on the outside (up to 10 degrees cooler).
7. Transport your horses only when you’re sure they are in good health conditions. This is important regardless of the age of the horse. Check the horse’s resting vital signs before departure to use as a comparison throughout the stops you make during the trip. Also, install at least one thermometer inside the trailer which you can easily check every few hours while on the road.
8. Be sure to place at least two rubber mats on the floor where each horse will stand. These will really help in keeping the horse's legs cool when the trailer is heated up.
9. You may be tempted use sheets and blankets to keep the horse clean and free from exposure to dust or other weather elements, but skip this step. While they may keep your horse clean, they’ll also prevent him from dissipating body heat while inside the trailer.
10. Acclimate each of your horses to trailering by going on shorter trips in the similarly hot weather before you embark on a much longer journey. Horse transport can be stressful to all horses and if one is also stressed out at the beginning, he will be even more susceptible to the additional stresses of travel in such heat. Finally, you should also train each your horses to load and unload calmly because their reactions to different stimuli will somewhat determine how safe trailering will be.
Image credit: Horsenation.com