Travelling Horses in the Heat
With the welcome appearance of the sunshine comes the ever unpredictable Great British Heatwave. And with competition season well and truly upon us, equestrians are trying to get out to shows, clinics and beach trips as often as they can.
But travelling your horse in the heatwave can be difficult, and there’s certain precautions that should be taken to keep your horse as safe and as comfortable as possible. And while we don’t encourage putting your travel plans on hold until the end of October, we do recommend you think through what’s best for your horse before committing to a long and hot journey.
Want to know all there is to know about keeping your horse cool on the move? Here’s our top tips.
Travel at Cooler Times of the Day
Just as you shouldn’t lie outside during the hottest times of the day, try to avoid travelling your horse when the midday sun hits. High temperatures and high humidity can make the journey seriously uncomfortable and potentially dangerous. While setting off early in the morning will mean an earlier wake up, it will make the journey a whole lot more comfortable for everyone.
Keep your Horse Hydrated
Keeping your horse hydrated during hot weather is absolutely essential. Provide them with unrestricted access to water and allow them to chill out (so no strenuous exercise) in the hours before they travel. They should be rested, relaxed, cool and hydrated when they get onto the trailer or lorry.
If you’re travelling a long way in the heat, your horse should be offered water at least every 2 hours. While the general rule of thumb is to offer your horse water for every 4 hours of travel, this needs to be at least doubled in very hot conditions.
Give your horse access to good quality forage on the journey to keep them hydrated. This will provide them with energy and create a small pool of fluid in their gut to keep them hydrated during the journey.
Make Travelling a Good Experience
Travelling can be stressful for horses, which can cause them to sweat and become dehydrated quicker. The most stressful aspects of travelling is loading and unloading. Practise this in the weeks leading up to your long journey if you know your horse finds this difficult.
Drive as smoothly as you can without any sudden movements to ensure that every journey is a good experience for your horse. Some horses prefer to have slightly more space in the lorry, and others less – so if you find your horse is becoming stressed in the lorry it might be worth trying something different. Bigger horses often require more space to help them find their balance.
Know the Signs of Dehydration
Knowing your horse and the signs of dehydration is essential. Your horse may appear lethargic, dull in the eyes or coat, and they may not want to eat their forage. Keep an eye on how often they are urinating, and if they take extremely long gulps of water when you offer it to them, you’ve probably left it too long before drinks.
What to do If: You Get Stuck in Traffic
Getting stuck in traffic in the heat is every owner’s worst nightmare. Ensure you have enough water and hay before you leave home so you can regularly offer your horses a drink to keep them cool. Make sure the lorry is as cool as it can be before you head out – you may want to install a fan, but at the bare minimum all windows should be open.
If you are stuck in traffic and worried about your horse, call 101 as soon as you can. This is especially important if the temperature is over 25 degrees. If you’re on the motorway, you are not allowed to use the hard shoulder and you may get fined if you use it to escape the traffic, but if you call 101 they will be able to direct you off the motorway.
If your horse is very distressed and the situation has become dangerous, you may decide to take the risk and use the hard shoulder – although if possible you should try to capture evidence of the horse’s distress.
Travelling with horses in the heat can be extremely stressful – for both horse and owner! But there’s no need to abandon the journey altogether. With the right preparation and knowledge, there’s no reason you and your horse can’t enjoy getting out and about this summer – heatwave or not!