When is it too hot to trailer a horse? You don’t want to make your horses face heat stress.
This article is packed with my personal tips for keeping your horse safe and comfortable during hot weather travels.
From recognizing signs of overheating to preparing your trailer, I’ll guide you through it.
So, if you’re ready to ensure a worry-free journey for your equine companion, keep reading.
- Temperature Matters: When temperatures hit above 90°F (32°C), it’s time to think twice about trailering your horse.
- Be Observant: Watch for signs of overheating, like rapid breathing, excessive sweating, or changes in behavior. Your horse’s comfort and health should always come first.
- Preparation is Key: Equip your trailer for hot weather, ensure access to fresh water, and know how to handle heat distress. These steps can make a big difference in your horse’s travel experience in the heat.
What Temperature Is Too Hot for Horses To Be Hauled?
When the mercury climbs above 90°F (that’s 32°C for our metric friends), it becomes too hot for our equine pals.
But just like us, every horse is unique, so watch for any signs of discomfort.
A hot summer day and a very uncomfortable mare named Belle taught me this lesson — always keep an eye on the thermometer and your horse when planning your travels!
Want to ensure your horse’s safety and comfort during transport? Dive into my article on “how should you travel a horse in a trailer” for expert tips and guidelines!
Impact of Hot Weather on Horse Health
There’s nothing quite like a sunny day on the saddle. But the sun and heat can profoundly impact our equine pals.
Horses, like humans, have a thermal comfort zone. When temperatures rise beyond this, a range of health issues can ensue.
These can range from discomfort to serious health problems like heat stress or heatstrokes.
An old cowboy friend of mine had a hearty Clydesdale who seemingly loved the summer heat.
That was until one day, after a long journey in the trailer, when the big guy was listless and off his feed. Even the most resilient-looking horses can fall prey to high temperatures.
Why Is It Important To Consider Heat When Trailering Horses?
When we trailer our horses, we restrict their natural ability to manage their body temperature.
In their usual pasture or stable, horses have many options for dealing with the heat. They can ride to the shade of a tree, drink water from a trough, or roll in a cool patch of dirt.
Unfortunately, in horse trailers, these options aren’t available.
Check out this video explanation:
How Does Hot Weather Affect Horses?
Like humans, horses can become dehydrated and suffer heat stress in hot weather.
Prolonged exposure to hot temperatures without the chance to cool down can lead to fatigue, poor performance, and in severe cases, even life-threatening conditions like heatstroke.
6 Signs and Symptoms of Horses Overheating
As a keen-eyed horse owner, keep an eye out for these potential signs of your horse overheating:
1. Excessive Sweating:
Horses, like people, will sweat more when they’re hot. But excessive sweating can be a sign of heat stress (1).
2. Rapid Breathing:
Also known as tachypnea, rapid, shallow breathing can indicate that your horse is trying to cool itself down.
3. Increased Heart Rate:
An unusually high heart rate can be a symptom of many issues, including heat stress.
4. Signs of Lethargy:
An overheated horse may be unusually tired or unresponsive.
5. Decreased Appetite:
A change in eating habits, especially a decreased appetite, can signify distress in horses.
Behavioral changes such as this can indicate something wrong, including potential heat stress.
4 Risk Factors for Heat Stress in Horses
Here are some factors that can increase the risk of heat stress in horses during transport:
1. Poor Ventilation:
A poorly ventilated trailer can quickly become hot and stuffy, making it hard for horses to keep cool.
2. Lack of Access to Fresh Water:
Hydration is key to helping horses regulate their body temperature. Without access to fresh water, horses are at an increased risk of heat stress (2).
3. High Humidity:
High humidity combined with high temperatures can make it feel hotter than it is.
4. Direct Sunlight Exposure:
Too much sunlight exposure inside the trailer can lead to a rapid increase in temperature.
By recognizing these signs and risk factors, you can be better prepared to keep your horse comfortable and safe during transport in hot weather.
Assessing the Temperature Before Trailering a Horse
It’s essential to assess the temperature before deciding to transport horses. But it’s not just about reading the thermometer.
You also have to consider humidity levels, as the combination of high heat and high humidity can drastically affect how hot it feels — this is what we often refer to as the “feels like” temperature.
I’ve seen how this can affect horses firsthand. One particularly muggy day, I decided to take my gelding, Rocky, on a trip.
Despite the temperature not seeming overly high, Rocky was noticeably uncomfortable because of the high humidity. It was a lesson in the importance of considering all factors regarding weather.
Measuring Air Temperatures Before Transporting the Horse
Before loading up your horse and hitting the road, using a reliable thermometer to gauge the air temperature inside and outside the trailer is wise.
This is crucial because the temperature inside a trailer parked in direct sunlight can be significantly hotter than outside air.
I have the habit of checking the temperature before every trip. And the inside of the trailer always becomes unbearably hot when parked in the sun.
Monitoring Body Temperature, Heart Rate, and Respiratory Rate During Loading and Unloading
Regular monitoring of your horse’s body temperature, heart rate, and respiratory rate before, during, and after travel can provide essential insights into how well your horse handles the heat.
I always keep an infrared thermometer and stethoscope in my travel kit. These instruments can be real lifesavers, allowing us to detect a problem before it escalates.
Preparing the Horse Trailer for Hot Weather Travel Conditions
To ensure your horse’s journey is as comfortable as possible, consider installing roof vents for improved ventilation and laying rubber mats on the trailer floors to provide insulation from the hot road surface.
Additionally, ensuring that all shipping boots fit correctly is key. Ill-fitting boots can cause discomfort and add to heat stress.
The difference was noticeable right away when I installed rubber mats in my trailer. My horses were more at ease, and I felt better knowing they were more comfortable.
Managing Water Intake During Travel in Hot Weather Conditions
Keeping your horse hydrated is critical during hot weather travel. Ensure you have access to water and provide it to your horse regularly throughout the trip.
Water is a simple yet highly effective way to help regulate a horse’s body heat.
Your horse may be at risk of serious dehydration due to extreme heat.
How To Handle Horses Exhibiting Heat Distress During Travel [Expert Tips]
If you spot any signs of heat distress in your horse during travel, follow these expert tips to ensure your horse’s well-being:
- Stop and Assess: Pull over and assess the situation if it’s safe. Look for signs of distress, such as increased heart rate, rapid breathing, excessive sweating, or lethargy.
- Find Shade: Seek a shady spot for your horse to rest. This can help reduce heat exposure and potentially cool down your horse’s body temperature.
- Hydrate: Provide your horse with fresh, cool water to drink. This is key to helping your horse recover and prevent further dehydration.
- Apply Cool Water: Gradually apply cool (but not ice cold) water to your horse’s body, focusing on large muscle groups and the neck. This can help lower your horse’s body temperature.
- Contact a Vet: If your horse’s symptoms persist or worsen, don’t hesitate to contact a veterinarian.
When handling heat stress in horses, it’s always better to err on the side of caution. Take the necessary steps to ensure your horse’s comfort and health during transport.
Additionally, being adept at how to turn a trailer around in a tight space can be invaluable during your travels, helping you navigate challenging situations while keeping your horse calm and secure.
Now that we’ve navigated through the heat of this topic, let’s cool down with some frequently asked questions!
1. What are signs my horse might be overheating while being trailered?
Signs of overheating can include excessive sweating, rapid breathing, increased heart rate, and lethargy. If your horse shows these symptoms, it’s important to stop, provide cool water, and seek veterinary advice.
2. How can I keep my horse cool while traveling in hot weather?
Good ventilation is crucial. Keep windows or vents open and consider using a fan if your trailer has one.
Frequent breaks for hydration and checking on your horse’s condition are also important. Consider traveling during the early morning or late evening when it is cooler.
Ensure your equine friends stay cool during transport by checking out our top-rated fan for horse trailers.
3. Can I use ice or cold water to cool down my horse quickly during hot weather transport?
Yes, but it should be done carefully. Gradually applying cool (not icy cold) water to the horse’s body, focusing on large muscle groups and the neck, can help lower the body temperature.
Never throw cold water suddenly on a hot horse because it can cause shock.
4. Are there breeds of horses that handle hot weather better during transport?
Some breeds are naturally more adapted to hot weather, like Arabian horses (3). But any horse can suffer from overheating when transported in high temperatures.
Regardless of breed, monitor your horse’s condition closely and provide ample water and ventilation.
Understanding “when is it too hot to trailer a horse” is crucial for responsible horse owners.
We must prioritize our horses’ comfort and reconsider our travel plans as temperatures climb. Let’s always make informed decisions, placing our horses’ well-being first.
Are you ready to keep a keen eye on the weather before the next trip with your equine buddy?
1. Martinson K, Hathaway M, Ward C, Johnson R. Caring for horses during hot weather [Internet]. extension.umn.edu. 2020. Available from: https://extension.umn.edu/horse-care-and-management/caring-horses-during-hot-weather
2. Kang H, Zsoldos RR, Sole-Guitart A, Narayan E, Cawdell-Smith AJ, Gaughan JB. Heat stress in horses: a literature review. International Journal of Biometeorology [Internet]. 2023;67. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37060454/
3. Salem P. Keeping Horses in the Desert [Internet]. Fédération Équestre Internationale. 2019. Available from: https://www.fei.org/stories/lifestyle/horse-human/advice-keeping-horses-desert
Emily is a native of Colorado, currently living in Glasgow, Scotland, working as a freelance writer. She is a long-time horsewoman, having started riding at the age of 6, then competing in dressage around Colorado and Massachusetts, where she finished her undergraduate degree in psychology.
Following a move to the UK and a PhD, she worked for a few years as a freelance horse trainer in Central Scotland. She’s interested in holistic horsemanship, fostering better communication and understanding between horses and humans, riding with lightness and softness, and she’s forever seeking out the newest research into equine behavior and psychology. When not writing, she can be found at the barn with her two equine partners, Foinavon, an ex-feral Highland pony, and Hermosa, a young Andalusian.
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