Travelling with horses in Hot weather

BE PREPARED! If you are you will not STRESS

Water and Ice

First things first, get your lorry ready!!! Get plenty of water, a horse normally drinks between 5-10 gallons (5 gallons = 22.7 litres) of water daily depending on size. If you have an old chest freezer put in 2 big 20ltr water carriers leaving 2 inches at the top for expansion. Put these securely in the horse section of your lorry – as they defrost they will help cool the air. You can use smaller plastic bottles, but more of them of course!

A lot of modern horse boxes have tanks underneath and it is a good idea to fill them the night before you travel. If they have not been used for a while, get a bottle of Milton or any other baby sterilising fluid (available from Chemists), fill the tank with cold water and empty the Milton into it. Leave for 30 mins and then empty. No need to rinse, just fill up with fresh water after emptying.

Having done all that, don’t forget about you! Take enough drinks for you -lucozade is brilliant to re-hydrate and replenish you but take plenty of water as well.

Lorry Checks

Engine oil and summer coolant should be checked as well as tyre tread, wall and pressures and do not forget the spare tyre either. Just because it was plated 6 months ago does not mean it is road worthy! Regular servicing and checking your lorry will ensure it will not break down. You should, prior to driving your lorry, do a walk round check to make sure everything is fine before you drive off. After all you are carrying your best friend on board!

Dog crate – if you are taking your lorry dogs with you then make sure they will be safe too! Dog crates are a perfect way of keeping your dog safe in your lorry whilst driving along. There are cooling jackets for them to wear all available at most pet supply shops, again these are ideal and follow the manufacturer’s instructions and check frequently.

Ensure you have your membership card for your equine breakdown recovery!!! And your horse’s passports on board-it is the law!

 If your lorry breaks down

If you can limp carefully into the services do this! But be mindful of your slow speed and it maybe better for the Highways Agency or Police to escort you off the road, Equine Rescue Services can help you with this!

Services are BUSY places with plenty of hussle and bussle, noisy air brakes, plenty of loud metal bangs, engines revving. Find a quiet area where you can IF it is safe to do so drop the ramp, put out your warning triangle to show other users that not only are you broken down but to warn them not to get close.

Other road users may not see you, so be mindful that they may not be expecting to come across horses in the lorry park!

IF you can find a shady area, bearing in mind the sun moves across the sky, that is great. Keeping your lorry cool is of paramount importance and keep the fans going (if you have them) if the electrics have not failed.

If you are still at the show ground, unload and put your horses in the stable. Most show centres will let you do this if you have not already booked stables overnight for during a show.

Check what you are wearing! You may have undressed from your show gear into summer shorts and strappy top! Whilst cooling for you, be careful around horses their feet can cause broken bones and large lacerations on your legs. There are plenty of cooling materials that jodhpurs are made of to cover your legs and keep your steel toe capped boots on and put on your hat if getting your horse off. You are no use to your horse if you are being carted off by the paramedics!!!!

Wash and Scrape

Horses do need water on their backs and large muscle areas but be careful not to insulate them! Wet towels are only effective for 5 mins and after this they insulate and warm up the horse.

The rules for soaking horses is washdown and scrape off with a sweat scraper. Do this 5 times repeating the wash and scrape. You can do this with ICED water -endurance riders have been doing this for years and years with no ill effects.

Pinch your horse’s skin, and see how quickly it goes back by counting 1, 2, 3 but slowly just like seconds. If it goes back immediately then he is not dehydrated. If it takes more than 3 seconds to go back then he is dehydrated.

Try to encourage to drink and there are plenty of products on the Equestrian market to put in the water to make it more palatable but these are NOT SUITABLE for EMS or PPID horses when you are watching their sugar intake.

Use a brand new sponge and soak it in the water and place in the horse’s mouth (mind their teeth and make sure you do not get eaten or they eat the sponge!)

Put apples or carrots in the water bucket and let them play apple bobbing.

Use a bottle or syringe to put water in the horse’s mouth to encourage drinking

There are some new rugs on the market that are cooling rugs, again ideal for standing horses and you need to cool them down quickly. Again like the canine cooling jackets follow the manufacturers instructions.

Do all of this and your horse will stay cool.

 Spotting potential Problems: What am I looking for?

Horses will sweat naturally to keep cool but this is an inefficient way for them due to their large muscle mass and we have to help them. In the wild horses will find shade and roll in muddy wallows to put a mud pack on them to protect them from the sun and flies. They will also paddle in water.

A sweaty horse needs to be cooled by the WASH AND SCRAPE method as mentioned above. This should bring down the horses temperature.

Keep an eye and regularly wash and scrape down. If you have fans on the lorry that will help as well.

If your horse has been suffering from heat stress and it is left untreated it can lead to a more serious condition, known as Heat Stroke.  Signs that your horse may be suffering from this include:

  • High temperature, horses normal temp is 100.5 degrees F (or 36 degrees Celsius)
  • Skin is usually dry and warm to the touch but they can be sweaty with foam as well
  • Skin can be twitching all over like there are flies on him
  • Horses may be staggering around, and may even fall, muscles may tie up like azutoria
  • They can be unaware of their surroundings, and this can make them a danger both to themselves and to others and humans!
  • Failure to treat can lead to very serious complications, call the vet or ask the Equine Rescue Control room to find the nearest vet to come to you.


The key is to remain as calm as you can and this will keep your horse calm.

If you have to get your horse off to walk around ensure you have a good control measure – a bridle is the best or chifney if you know how to use one. You do not want your beloved best friend trotting off up the road!

Make sure it is safe to do this, especially if you can stay on the lorry, if you can’t stay on then find a quiet spot.

Author: Julie Magnus from Julie Magnus Racehorse Transport