Haul horses safely in warm weather
Horse shows, trail rides, performance events — horsemen haul their horses all over the country for summer competitions.
“Horses are amazing animals and tolerate most of the things we do with them, but being hauled in hot weather is stressful,” says Michael Foss, Alpine Veterinary Hospital, Hood River, Ore. “They dehydrate, especially if humidity is high, and they can’t adequately cool themselves by sweating.”
Park in the shade if you stop. Don’t leave horses in a parked trailer longer than necessary. “Put a thermometer in the trailer to see how hot it actually gets in there. This can be an eye-opener to realize what your horse has to deal with for 400 miles.”
Make sure to ventilate
Keep all vents and windows open for more ventilation. If heat is extreme, Foss advises traveling at night. “Some trailers have air conditioning. If you don’t have that luxury, use wet wood shavings as bedding. Pull into a gas station periodically and use a garden hose with spray mister on the end to dampen the bedding and the horses. This will help keep them cool and give their sweating a break, and they’ll dehydrate less.” Wetting the bedding will also make it less dusty in the trailer.
If it’s a long trip, more than four or five hours, Foss recommends feeding the horses. “Clean grass hay is less dusty than alfalfa. I like to wet the hay, soaking it before I put it in a hay net. This minimizes the dust inhaled by the horse.”
If the trip is longer than five or six hours, stop and water the horse along the way. “If he’s fussy about strange water, bring some from home. Place it appropriately in the trailer. On one trip, we took two 55-gallon barrels of water in the front of the trailer. It bent the tongue because there was too much weight up front,” Foss says.
Some horses are reluctant to drink strange water. “I tell people to get their horse used to a certain flavoring — molasses, apple juice, soft drink mix, corn syrup, a drop of wintergreen or peppermint oil — that you add to his water at home. Experiment with various flavors to see what he tolerates best. Then when you add a few drops to the water you give him on the trip, he’s less apt to refuse it. This is easier than hauling water.” If he won’t drink while in the trailer, unload him periodically to encourage him to drink.
“I also advise people to give a low dose of electrolytes when hauling horses in hot weather. This replaces the important body salts lost through sweating, and also helps them drink better. You can give the electrolytes in paste form or put it in the feed. Don’t put it in the drinking water. If the water tastes salty, he might not drink it,” says Foss.
Smith Thomas is from Salmon, Idaho.
This article published in the June, 2014 edition of WESTERN FARMER-STOCKMAN.
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