On the Road Again: Horse Respiratory Health in the Trailer

Ammonia exposure during transport can have negative effects on the respiratory system. Here’s how to control it.
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Horse Respiratory Health in the Trailer
Keeping the trailer clean between uses will help to manage ammonia build-up. | Photo: iStock
As the competition season ramps up, your horse might start spending a considerable amount of time in the trailer. Before you hit the road, chances are you’ll give the trailer a preliminary safety check in an effort to keep your horse safe and sound on the way to your destination.

But have you given the same consideration to your horse’s respiratory health? Even with the best intentions, you might inadvertently be neglecting an essential piece of your horse’s overall wellness.

Being exposed to ammonia while traveling can have devastating effects on the respiratory system. Ammonia irritates the lining of the airways, which can lead to complications as minor as coughs and nasal secretions, or as major as inflammatory airway disease (IAD) and recurrent airway obstruction (RAO), collectively known as equine asthma.

There are a number of ways to manage ammonia, but a multi-faceted approach is the best plan of attack. Ammonia control begins with proper ventilation—select a trailer with ample vents and windows, and leave as many open as possible during transport. But remember: Always refer to the manufacturers literature to determine which vents and windows are safe to leave open while travelling. Consistent circulation helps to remove ammonia as well as other toxic chemicals from the air.

Keeping the trailer clean between uses will certainly help to manage ammonia, but it might not be enough. Your horse creates high volumes of ammonia (secreted in both urine and manure) during the duration of the trailer ride.

Urine can seep down into the flooring (even into rubber mats) and can provide a constant source of ammonia, despite your best efforts. In order to completely remove ammonia from the trailer, consider using an ammonia-reducing product such as a commercial horse stall refresher.

A liberal application of horse stall refresher can help eliminate ammonia from the trailer and keep noxious gas at bay. It also absorbs moisture, making it helpful for controlling damp spots in trailers.

Trailering is stressful enough for your horse; remove respiratory stress from the equation. Keep your horses breathing easy and implement ammonia control procedures as part of your trailer care routine.

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