Spring ride season has officially ended following the WWW ride this past weekend.   The weather, food and company were all perfect, Friday night we were entertained during supper by a young man named Luke Powell, and Saturday night a historian from the Fort, Eric Abercrombie, talked to us about the characters who travelled through the area, prompting the “Tombstone” themed ride. The wildflowers were beautiful as well.   The WWW gang announced they are taking a break in 2024 but plan to return with this ride in 2025.  Carla put together a wonderful raffle table, and cash was raised to donate to Fort Griffin during a special “side” raffle. Many thanks to Kelly and Ginny, Greg and all the judges, all the volunteers who made this weekend possible. 

There were a couple of new riders, prompting a discussion among some of us waiting to head out on trail Saturday morning.  If you were giving a new rider one piece of advice, what would it be?  Out of about 8 of us standing around, here are their answers:   Have fun (and smile)! Don’t rush at the obstacles. Have a plan.  Try to take one new tip away from each ride.  Get up early enough to warm your horse up well. And this one applies to so many aspects of life, always remember to STOP AND SETTLE!

Kate has offered to do a new order of a pullover many members purchased prior to 2023, see below.  This reorder is not meant to be a profit-making venture for the club, nor for Kate.  Please get with her if you think you want to order, she will be collecting your money and sizes.  Thank you, Kate, for offering to handle this.

I had asked Carol Warren earlier this spring about submitting an article regarding hauling horses in the heat of summer.  (I hauled Jill to NM last September, taking two days, and when we arrived at Gila Wilderness, I unloaded a dehydrated mare).  Please enjoy and learn from her article which follows.

Traveling with Your Horse in the Summer:

Many of us enjoy traveling with our horses in the summer.  Traveling through the Texas heat is hard on our vehicles and our horses. Planning our route wisely, timing our travel, preparing our vehicles, and preparing the horse can help everyone arrive less stressed, healthy, and ready to ride.  Here are just a few tips that I have found helpful in my 30 years of hauling.  There are so many do’s and don’ts out there, and we all have our routines, but I hope this is a helpful starting point. 

Vehicles–Make sure ALL tires are properly inflated and have not dry rotted.  Tires 4 years and older are considered past their useful life when towing, no matter what the tread looks like.  You can check the age of your tires by using the DOT Tire Date Code system published anywhere.  The extreme heat from the asphalt and high speeds can easily fatigue tires leading to a blow-out.  Be able to change a flat tire by yourself.  Consider purchasing a battery powered impact wrench and drive-on trailer jack.  Have a good truck jack and know where to place it on your truck to change truck tires.  It’s not always safe or even possible to wait for help.  Two spare trailer tires are even better than 1. 

—Make sure your vehicle is capable of pulling AND STOPPING your fully loaded trailer.  If you are going into the mountains, this is essential that your transmission, brakes, and engine can handle the load.   Many a flat lander’s truck has failed going up mountain passes because it has been over-loaded.  Worse yet is if the brakes overheat and make stopping difficult or even catch on fire!

—Make sure your trailer floor is sturdy and clean.  If traveling longer than a couple of hours, I like to put shavings down.  This adds insulation from the road heat and noise, and allows the horse to urinate without splashing himself.  If I am traveling quite a distance and in the heat of the day, I like to place at least 4 inches of shavings.  I will also sprinkle the shavings with water to keep dust down and to allow some evaporative cooling. 

—Make sure your axles are straight, bearings lubed, lights and brakes work.

—Great ventilation is essential to keep your horse cool.  Open the windows to allow ventilation but don’t forget to protect your horse’s eyes.  Either a fly mask or screen on the trailer windows helps prevent road debris from hurting your horse’s eyes.  Open the front roof vents to face forward to catch the air and open the last vent backwards to allow the air to escape, or flow over the horses.  Fans would be great, especially for when you are trapped in traffic unable to generate ventilation by just moving.   

Planning your route.  Consider this as important as having a safe vehicle.  In Texas, road construction is everywhere.   Especially try to avoid construction in densely populated areas, as this usually means prolonged traffic jams.  No movement means no ventilation for your horse.  Stop and go traffic is more likely to result in traffic accidents causing even more traffic problems.  Stop and go is also very taxing on our horses as well.   I prefer to drive on the secondary roads and try to avoid the typical high volume traffic rush hours.  Secondary roads usually go through the smaller towns.  Smaller towns have great places to stop and allow you to give your horse a break.  County fairgrounds, rodeo grounds, auction barns, even small city parks are safe places to unload, giving you and your horse the much needed lunch and potty break.  I prefer these places over roadside parks because they seem to be safer, are away from traffic, and often have helpful and friendly people.  

I stop every 3-4 hours if possible.  If I have a 12 hour trip, I plan to allow my horse to get off the trailer around the 6 hour mark.  If my trip is only 6 hours, I plan to stop around the 3-4 hour time mark for at least 30 minutes to allow my horse just to quietly stand and rest in the trailer.  I think offering some water and soaked feed around the halfway point is a good idea.  Some people keep hay in front of their horses.  Mine do not like to eat much while traveling and I think the hay just blows in their face and eyes.  Of course, soaked hay cubes and water is offered at each stop.  If you are making the trip in a stock trailer or box-stall type trailer, unloading is not as necessary, but please stop to allow the horse a chance to relax.  It takes a lot of effort to balance going down the road!

Horse—The most obvious things first.  Make sure your Coggins is current for your destination.  Health certificates are may be required by some equine events and  for out of state travel. Find out if your destination requires weed-free feeds and start feeding it at least 1 week (or appropriate time frame recommended by your destination) prior to departure so your horse is adjusted to the new diet and his system has cleared all the noxious weed seed out.  Vaccinations may be required depending on your destination.   Make sure to pack all needed documentation in a convenient location, and double check they are actually packed!

Traveling in the heat can rapidly dehydrate your horse.  Do your very best to super-hydrate him before the trip.  Beginning at least one week before departure, I like to soak my feed as much as my horse will tolerate, serving it as soupy as he will eat it. Begin feeding small amounts of electrolytes or salt early to encourage drinking and to get them used to the flavor in their feed.  Pack plenty of water from home and offer it frequently during the trip.  Have enough water for your horse for a few days until he gets used to the local water.  Plan to have some cubed hay that can be soaked as well.  Keeping the gut well hydrated will keep your horse hydrated!

If it is already hot when I have to load my horse, I like to hose him off, then scrape off the excess water.  I will sprinkle the shavings in the trailer with water.  These steps will add some evaporative cooling to keep him a little more comfortable during the trip. 

Check on your horse at least every couple of hours.  If he is really sweating, you should consider stopping and unloading him in a shady area, give him plenty of time to rehydrate and rest.  Your horse should only develop a mild sweat in the trailer.  Too much sweat indicates a ventilation problem or excess stress.

How do you know if your horse is dehydrated?  The skin tent test is a simple test.  Just pinch some skin on the neck, pull it up, then release it.  A normally hydrated horse’s skin will immediately go back to normal position.  A prolonged return to normal position indicates at least 5% dehydration.  The longer the delay, the more dehydrated the horse.  Check the horse’s gums.  Look at the upper gums where they meet the upper front teeth.  Normal gums are pale pink and moist.  The gum will blanch white when gently pressed, then return to normal within 2 seconds.  If it takes longer than 3 seconds to return to normal color, there is a problem.  Red or purple gums are abnormal and indicate a medical emergency.   Practice evaluating these on your horse now so you know what his normal looks like.   A horse that is 5% dehydrated (that has a prolonged skin tent) will require up to 25 liters of balanced IV fluids to return to normal hydration.  This is approximately 10 gallons!   A dehydrated horse is a medical emergency!  Dehydration leads to colic, electrolyte imbalances, muscle weakness, kidney failure, shock and eventually death.

A quick note on using electrolytes.  Do not give a full dose of electrolytes to a dehydrated horse.  The salts and sugars just pull more fluid out of the horse’s body into the gut, causing more dehydration.  It is ok to offer some electrolyte infused water, but make sure there is plenty of fresh water as well.  The best electrolyte is just plain old salt added into the feed daily.  Avoid the electrolytes with lots of sugar—these have very little value to the horse.

These are just a few tips I have learned over the years.  I hope this helps.  We all want our partners to arrive safe, healthy and happy. 

Happy Trails, friends, enjoy your summer! Gayna

2 thoughts on “TTCC NEWSLETTER MAY 2023”

  1. Excellent article and great tips! Thank you Carol and Gayna! One more suggestion is to make sure your horse loads and unloads easily. Often people say never unload your horse unless you are at your destination but my horses and I very much enjoy a short lunch and potty break. Green grass, shade, easy turn around, and a SAFE low traffic area are important in addition to a horse that loads easily.

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