14 July 2015
Posted in Articles
Do you know how to keep your horse healthy when you’re traveling in extreme heat? Here are some great tips for safe hot weather travel..
There may be no more debilitating weather condition than extreme heat for man or beast. It drains energy, creates fatigue and can even cause certain organs of the body to malfunction or shut down.
With that thought in mind, it’s immensely important that every precaution be taken when transporting horses across the desert in the summer. In areas where air temperature can reach upward of 115 degrees, knowing what to do and how to do it is information that is crucial to desert hauling. Here are some suggestions for safe summer hauling.
- If possible, try to do your hauling in the early morning or late at night, when temperatures are cooler.
- Be sure that you are not overly tired when you set out. After all, a mishap on the road would undoubtedly offset any advantage you might have had with night travel.
- Make sure that your horse is properly hydrated.
- Take a good supply of water with you, ensuring that your horses won’t refuse to drink the water that you offer them in a strange area because they don’t like the taste. Also, extra water is helpful if you find yourself in an area with no water during a breakdown.
- Combat “strange-tasting” water by adding a little flavoring to it, such as with apple juice or Gatorade.
- Use electrolytes when you are transporting during the heat. Start the horses on electrolytes a couple of days before the trip to allow the horse to get used to having them in the water.
Preparation is Key
- Make sure your trailer is clean and well-ventilated. Open all the vents and windows, and use screens, which will keep your horses from sticking their heads outside of the trailer. You can also put fly masks on to save your horses the aggravation of contending with insects the whole way.
- Have a trailer with good footing, such as rubber mats or rubber-coated lumber. The horses are always working as they ride, and this makes for good traction.
- Add wood chips to help with shock absorption. Avoid making your wood chips too deep, though. If you do, it will be hard to keep the trailer clean, and it is also hard for the horse to find balance if they’re too deep.
- Pack extra lead ropes, so if you have to unload the horses for any reason on the trip, you will have an adequate number in good working order.
Regardless of how prepared you are, there is always the chance that the horses you are transporting will, for whatever reason, have difficulty during the trip. It is imperative that you know how to determine if your horse is uncomfortable.
- In most instances, a horse’s eyes are bright and his ears are forward. If that’s not the case, determine what the problem might be.
- A horse can show stress or worry with forehead wrinkles. In extreme instances, he will even shake as a result of stress.
- A more extreme method of reflecting his discomfort is manifested in fidgety behavior, such as kicking the sides of the trailer, weaving back and forth, or stamping a lot.
- Try to keep hay in front of the horse most of the time. The hay gives the horse something to do while he is riding and helps keep him content. A horse that is eating during the trip will be more apt to drink once you get to your destination.
- Bring your own hay. Types of hay vary from region to region. If you bring hay with you, you don’t have to worry that your horse won’t eat because of the change.
- “Over-hydration” is virtually never a problem, as horses tend to regulate their own intake, but you can go overboard on the electrolytes. It won’t hurt the horse, but you can waste your money that way.
- Here are two tests that you can use to check whether your horse is in danger of dehydration:
- Pinch your horse’s neck and pull the skin away. If the skin is slow to return to its position, offer water and electrolytes.
- Capillary refill time: Lift your horse’s upper lip and press on the gum. If the gum is slow to return to a pink color, your horse might be dehydrated.
- Spray the horses with fly spray before you load them. A hot-weather trip is difficult enough without the horses having to contend with the discomfort of flies and other insects.
- If you have a horse that gets stressed easily, give him a calming agent. Many of these agents have L-tryptophan in them, which is the same thing in turkey that makes us sleepy after we eat it.
- Make sure you are totally prepared. Map out your route and make arrangements for extended stopovers. The less you leave to chance, the more apt you are to have a successful trip.
- Make sure that your tow vehicle is up to the task. Check hoses and thermostats, as well as the tires. You should have a maintenance check on the trailer at least annually, and probably before you take a major trip of any duration.
- Practice good driving with the trailer while it is loaded. There is a vast difference in driving with an empty trailer and with one that has a horse or two in it.