As I prepare to travel with my personal horse to California from Washington, it made me very aware of the dangers of summer travel with temperatures promising to be over 100 degrees. I make no claims to be an expert in hauling horses, but I have my fair share of miles under my belt. Having hauled horses from Ohio to California in everything from the dead of summer to the middle of winter, I have seen my fair share of bad weather with a horse trailer in tow. Keeping your horse happy, safe and healthy is one aspect but also keep in mind to keep yourself happy, safe and healthy as well.
Perhaps the most important piece of common sense is to ensure that your truck and trailer are in good working order. This means having routine maintenance done, and checking tires for wear and tear. Being broken down on the side of the road is not something many want to partake in.
-Leg Wraps vs. Shipping Boots vs. Naked Legs: I have heard arguments for all sides of this issue. When traveling in the colder months, I will use standing wraps and quilts when traveling any distance. In summer months, I won’t wrap legs because horses will dissipate heat through their legs and I do not want to inhibit that natural ability. I am personally not a fan of shipping boots due to the fact that they often don’t fit well, and will shift during travel.
-Water intake: Water intake is even important on the road! Horses can colic in the trailer if they aren’t drinking enough water, in addition to other health issues. Encouraging drinking during rest times is vital, if you encounter a horse that won’t drink along the road, you can offer them some soaked beet pulp (I have had some EXCELLENT luck with the beet pulp trick). Also administering electrolytes prior to travel can cause some horses to drink even less, which can cause adverse effects.
-Length of travel, rest times: Again, everyone has his or her own system to trailering long distances. However, a general rule of thumb to err on the safe side is to not trailer more than 12-14 hours, and rest every 3-4 hours for at least 30 minutes with the engine turned off. The reason for turning the engine off is because the vibrations from the engine will continue to wear out your horse’s legs. If it is really warm weather, I will try to open windows on the trailer to ensure adequate airflow during travel. Some trailers when they are enclosed can become ovens in the summer heat!
-Leave blankets and fly sheets off the horses as the extra layers can inhibit your horse’s ability to cool themselves off.
-Plenty of rest: Before taking off on your adventures make sure you get plenty of rest so you aren’t driving tired!
-Caffeine: If you are believer in a cup of joe to keep you going every day like I am, then coffee is your friend on the long trips!
-Tunes: For entertainment I will keep music or a good audiobook hooked up to my truck to keep me focused and awake.
-Buddy System: If you’re lucky enough to have a friend who wants to tag along, the buddy system when hauling can keep you both energized and you can take turns driving!
If you have any hauling tips or tricks, be sure to comment! Drive safe, stay cool and happy trails!