According to Dr. Alexandra Tracey, a board-certified large animal surgeon, you should never force your horse to travel in a trailer hotter than 90°F. But what if you don’t have a choice? Or what if you’re just looking for a general way to keep your horses comfortable on hot afternoons? Here are six tips for cooling down your horse during road trips.
1. Buy the Right Trailer
Look for a trailer that promotes good ventilation and airflow. The windows should be positioned around your horse’s body, not just in front of their face, and tubular dividers should be used for multiple horses. Pay attention to the way sunlight enters the trailer and how it will warm the interior walls. Avoid trailers that use aluminum sheeting; lumber or synthetic rubber will stay cooler for longer periods of time.
2. Keep Your Horse Hydrated
This may sound like a no-brainer, but stressed or uncomfortable horses might be unwilling to drink the water you’ve provided, so dehydration during a long trip can become a serious threat. Think about giving your horses electrolytes or antioxidants like vitamins C and E. They can be administered orally or squirted into your horse’s mouth with a syringe.
3. Skip the Sheets
Don’t bog down your horse with any unnecessary gear, including blankets, bumpers, coolers and even anti-sweat sheets. These can do more harm than good when the heat is rising inside an enclosed space. Let them feel the breeze on their naked skin; horses don’t want to experience heat stress, so their bodies will work hard to regulate their own internal temperatures.
4. Ventilate Your Trailer Before Use
Never load your horse into a hot, stuffy trailer. Not only will this increase their risk of dehydration, but it can also worsen their loading stress and lower their resistance to heat exhaustion. Make sure you’re turning on fans and opening all windows, vents and ceiling panels at least 30 minutes before travel.
5. Make Modifications to Your Trailer
There are ways to make your trailer a cooler place without having to shell out for an entirely new vehicle. For example, you can have windows and screens installed to promote better airflow, or you can lower your horse’s center dividers to avoid hot air being “trapped” around their legs and torsos. You can also install oscillating fans as a permanent fixture in your trailer.
6. Know the Danger Signs
Maybe your trailer wasn’t ventilated enough. Maybe the sun was just too hot. If you think your horse is suffering from heat stress or heat exhaustion, perform a full-body evaluation. If you discover any of the following, begin cool down measures immediately:
– A rectal temperature more than 103°F
– A respiratory rate more than 30 breaths per minute
– A heart rate higher than 60 beats per minute
These are just a few tips for keeping your horses cool and comfortable while you’re behind the wheel. Remember, trailers and dividers can be replaced. A beloved horse cannot.