Sample Letter to Local Legislator

A fellow advocate shared a copy of her letter to a City Councilmember (see below) in case any of the information and references it contains might prove useful as you personalize a message to your own legislators.


Dear City Councilmember,

While it is commendable to have passed the recent measure to lower the suspension temperature for carriage horses, unfortunately, the new ordinance cannot protect the horses in Charleston's hot and humid climate, which almost never falls within the safety zone for horses to safely regulate their body heat--given that, as equine experts agree, if humidity is more than 75%, heat stress is a likely result regardless of ambient temperature or heat index; and that even at temperatures much lower than 95 degrees--i.e., at the temperatures that are normal and typical for Charleston--Charleston's high humidity raises the heat index to dangerous levels that impair horses' ability to cope with heat and put them at risk for heatstroke or death.  Further, the suspension figures were chosen in the belief that an equine body temperature of 103 degrees marks the danger zone, and that this may be reached when the air temperature is 95 degrees with a heat index of 110--but heatstroke may occur whenever a horse’s body temperature goes higher than the normal rectal temperature range of 99 to 100.5 degrees; the horse's temperature need not be as high as 103 for the horse to be at risk.  Horses heat more quickly than humans, feel the heat worse than we do, and are more susceptible to the negative effects of heat stress than we are; it takes only 17 minutes of moderate intensity exercise in hot, humid weather to raise a horse's temperature to dangerous levels.  (Fortunately, an attractive, romantic and historic, cruelty-free, environmentally friendly, and all-weather tourism alternative can take the place of horse-drawn carriages, the "horseless carriage" pioneered by Andre's Carriage Tours in Detroit.)

Heat and humidity present great dangers for working horses like carriage horses.  Cities want to feel that they can ascertain a magic number, a temperature or heat index within which carriage horses will be safe.  But despite good intentions, the reality of the effects of heat and humidity on horses are more complex and more dangerous than are generally understood, and the danger increases for large-boned horses and large draft breeds, such as are typically employed by horse-drawn carriage companies, and also varies, not only with the heat and humidity, but also with an individual animal's health, age, and strength.  For many reasons it is impossible to provide safe and humane working conditions for carriage horses in an urban setting (please see below); but in cities like Charleston, the climate itself is an insuperable obstacle to satisfying the requirements for health, safety, and welfare for horses pulling hack carriages and wagons.  Horses are far more susceptible to heatstroke than we are (please see below).  Simply put, horses are not safe hauling loads in a climate like Charleston's.  

To illustrate by the numbers, it is the consensus of horse experts that below a heat index (temperature + humidity) of 130, an average-size horse undergoing moderate activity should be able to regulate the effect of heat on his body.  By the heat index of 150, the body's heat-regulating mechanism is compromised and at risk, and over 170 or 180 the horse is at grave risk of heatstroke or death.  And if humidity is more than 75%, heat stress is a likely result due to inability to sweat regardless of ambient temperature or heat index. See the end of this letter for expert sources.  (These figures, for an average-size horse at moderate activity must be adjusted lower for a large draft horse working at the strenuous activity of hauling a 16-person wagon; and noting that the temperatures for Charleston are measured atop a building, whereas the temperature at asphalt level, where the horses are working, can be 45 degrees higher.) Now consider that throughout the year, the average high humidity in Charleston is never less than 88% and can be as high as 98%; the average low humidity is always more than 43% and can be as high as 78%.  At 50% humidity, the temperature need not be higher than 79 F. before entering the heat index zone where the horse's thermoregulatory system is impaired.  Above 75% humidity, no horse should be working, no matter what the temperature, because heat stress is likely to result as the humidity interferes with a horse's ability to cool himself by sweating, severely diminishing the effectiveness of the horse’s thermoregulatory systems.  This also means, for example, that at 90 F temperature, Charleston's heat index would be running on average between 134 and 188.  134 is already in the impaired zone for working horses, and over 180 can be fatal.  In other words, the climate of Charleston is too inhospitably hot and humid to humanely conduct a horse-drawn carriage business.  

Weather info:

As you know, heat and humidity are extremely dangerous for carriage horses, particularly in that the temperature reflected by the asphalt at street level can be 45 degrees higher than the air temperature registered by a thermometer (which in Charleston is placed at the top of a building); and in that horses heat 10 times faster than humans, and lose salts and electrolytes at a greater rate, which can cause heat stroke, dehydration, collapse, hypotension, colic, renal failure, etc., the danger intensifying as high humidity prevents horses’ sweat from evaporating efficiently as a cooling system.  

An excellent article in Horsetalk explains these dangers.

Please see http://www.horsetalk.co.nz/2015/06/16/horses-heat-up-faster-than-people/#axzz3b8ZJDjVT  “Horses heat up 10 times faster than people—study,” by Teresa Pitman, June 16, 2015, in Horsetalk.   

Horses are more susceptible to heat for several reasons, explains Lindinger. First, they are larger and have a higher percentage of active muscle than people do ...

I quote from the article:

"It might surprise you to know that your horse gets hotter much faster than you and is more susceptible to the negative effects of heat stress.

"Professor Michael Lindinger, an animal and exercise physiologist at the University of Guelph, explains: 'It only takes 17 minutes of moderate intensity exercise in hot, humid weather to raise a horse's temperature to dangerous levels. That's three to 10 times faster than in humans. Horses feel the heat much worse than we do.'

 "And the effects can be serious.  If a horse's body temperature shoots up from the normal 37 to 38 C to 41 C, temperatures within working muscles may be as high as 43 C, a temperature at which proteins in muscle begin to denature (cook). Horses suffering excessive heat stress may experience hypotension, colic and renal failure…

"Horses are more susceptible to heat for several reasons, explains Lindinger. First, they are larger and have a higher percentage of active muscle than people do during exercise. When muscles are being used, they produce a lot of heat.

"Horses also rely to a significant extent on sweating to cool them off...but only 25 to 30 per cent of the sweat produced is effective in cooling the horse by evaporation... 'By comparison, up to 50 per cent of the sweat people produce is evaporated from our bodies during exercise and helps to cool us.'  The salts in horse sweat are also four times as concentrated as in human sweat. 

"'Those salts have to be replaced,' [Lindinger] says. 'Just giving the horse water will not rehydrate a dehydrated horse. When horses drink plain water, it dilutes their body fluids, and their bodies respond by trying to get rid of more water and more electrolytes.'"

The article states that "Lindinger, a faculty member in the Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences, became interested in the effects of heat on horses when he was a lead researcher on the Canadian research team that contributed information on the response of the horse to heat and humidity for the Atlanta Summer Olympics."  

This is another article that discusses the heat index and horses: http://www.horsetalk.co.nz/2014/05/27/equine-specialist-warns-heat-related-illness/

Interview with New Mexico State University Extension horse specialist Jason Turner. He reminds horse owners that intense exercise coupled with a high ambient temperature can quickly put a horse in the danger zone of heat-related illness.

A US specialist has warned of the dangers of heat-related illness in horses with the summer heat just around the corner in the northern hemisphere. Summer is the ...

The article states:
“Intense exercise coupled with a high ambient temperature can quickly put a horse in the danger zone for heat-related illness.

Heatstroke may occur when a horse’s body temperature goes higher than the normal rectal temperature range of 99 to 100.5 degrees...

“Heatstroke is a serious condition that can be fatal if not dealt with quickly…

“The heat index, which is the temperature plus humidity, gives a means of assessing the danger that extreme environmental conditions pose to horses performing intense exercise in such an environment."

The Charleston citizen's committee and the Tourism Commission recommended a change to suspension at 95 degrees and 110 heat index to pull horses from the streets, and while this is an improvement, it is hardly a solution.  (And note that in Charleston, the heat index would always be at least 110 at 95 degrees, requiring only a 15% humidity.) These figures were chosen in the belief that these are the temperature and heat index at which a horse's body temperature may reach 103 degrees--but as already noted, heatstroke may occur whenever a horse's internal temperature rises above the normal 99 to 100.5 degrees.  And at 95 degrees, the humidity need be only 35% for horses' heat regulation to be impaired at a heat index of 130; 55% to reach a serious danger zone of 150 heat index; and humidity need be only 85% for heatstroke to be potentially fatal at 180 heat index.  Indeed, according to the Department of Animal Science, University of Connecticut, Effective Horse Management – Horse Health Series, "If humidity is more than 75%, heat stress is a likely result due to inability to sweat regardless of ambient temperature." (Other equine experts concur.)  Furthermore, the resolution calls for the temperature to remain at 95 F. for an hour before the horses are taken off the streets.  This is inhumane. The citizen's committee recommendation, while better than nothing, cannot ensure the safety of horses in an enterprise which is inherently unsafe, because horses should not be doing hard work in a hot and humid climate like Charleston's.  A ban is called for.

A hot, humid climate like Charleston's is wholly unsuitable for a carriage horse business, which is inherently inhumane in such heat and humidity.  

Add to this

  • the inevitability of accidents, because all horses, as prey animals, have evolved to spook.  Horses, no matter how well trained, can spook at anything at anytime, unpredictably, and not just for predictable reasons like construction.
  • the high incidence in carriage horses of crippling work-related lameness, arthritis, leg and hoof injuries and ailments, due to pounding the pavement.
  • the pulmonary ailments to which carriage horses are prone, hauling nose-to-tailpipe.
  • the lack, for many, if not most carriage horses of daily turn out to pasture, which is essential for equine welfare, socially, mentally, and physically. The necessity for daily turn out is so fundamental to horse's health and well-being, that without daily turn out to pasture, no carriage business can be humane.
  • the disproportionate loads: particularly in Charleston, where one horse can be pulling a 16-person wagon, leading to exhaustion, collapse, joint and muscle strain, etc. 
  • the impossibility of adequately overseeing regulations in an ambulatory enterprise.
  • the many retired carriage horses sent to slaughter, instead of being retired to homes and sanctuaries.  

Charleston should humanely ban horse-drawn carriages and wagons, and ensure that the horses are retired to good homes and sanctuaries.  As tourists become more educated, they understand that horse-drawn carriages and wagons under such circumstances are inhumane and cruel, and find them deeply distressing.  A humane ban on horse-drawn carriages would be to Charleston's credit, and ought not to be delayed.  

Note that there are attractive tourism alternatives to horse-drawn carriages, such as retrofitted "horseless carriages," powered by an environmentally-friendly battery rather than by a horse, a cruelty-free option that can operate in all weathers, charming, romantic, and enjoyable to tourists, emission-free, with a much lower overhead, costing pennies to operate, and which also preserves the current business model and jobs for owners and drivers.  

See Andre's Carriage Tours, Detroit:  

Thank you for your consideration of this important issue.
Sincerely,
C. W.
 

P.S.  More articles to consult:

http://practicalhorsemanmag.com/.amp/health-archive/protect-23722 "Protect Your Horse From Heat Stress: Safeguard your horse from this potentially serious summertime health threat," by Sharon J. Spier, October 14, 2014, Practical Horseman. 

The author, Sharon J. Spier, DVM, PhD, was Treating Veterinarian in charge of internal medicine at five Olympic Games from 1988 to 2008 and numerous Pan American Games. She is a professor at the University of California at Davis, where her specialty is equine medicine. 

"A horse’s muscles generate significant heat, especially when he’s active. Sweating is the mechanism his body uses to dissipate the heat. But soaring temperatures and high levels of humidity make it more difficult for the sweating process to have its usual cooling effect. As a result, a horse may become dehydrated, lose vital electrolytes or simply overheat."

Note that Dr. Spier recommends, at 90 degrees and up--and even lower, if the humidity is high--"Proceed with caution.  Overheating is possible with prolonged activity and exposure."

***

http://www.nbfeed.com/articles/beating-the-heat-caring-for-performance-horses-in-hot-weather-2012-03-1835  "Beating the Heat--Caring For Performance Horses in Hot Weather," by Karen E. Davison, Ph.D., Manager – Technical Services, Purina Mills, LLC, March 22nd, 2012.

Heat and humidity put an added burden on horses during training, showing and hauling. Horses are actually better equipped to work in cold weather than in the heat.

"Heat and humidity put an added burden on horses during training, showing and hauling. Horses are actually better equipped to work in cold weather than in the heat. They build up a tremendous amount of body heat due to the internal heat produced by fiber digestion and the large mass of working muscles, combined with insulation from their hair coat and body fat cover...

"A horse’s main cooling mechanism is evaporation of sweat from the skin surface ...Increasing humidity reduces the evaporation of sweat from the skin, thereby decreasing the cooling ability. Under extreme heat, especially when humidity is high, the body’s cooling mechanisms may not work well enough to dissipate the heat generated." 

***

http://animalscience.uconn.edu/extension/documents/heatstress.pdf "Heat Stress: Too Hot To Trot?" by Jenifer Nadeau, M.S., Ph.D, Associate Professor, Equine Extension Specialist, Department of Animal Science, University of Connecticut.   Effective Horse Management – Horse Health Series. 

FACT SHEET Department of Animal Science, University of Connecticut Effective Horse Management – Horse Health Series Heat Stress: Too Hot to Trot?

"During hot summer weather, heat should be a concern for horse owners. Horse owners need to provide extra care during hot weather to decrease stress and maintain the health and well being of their horses. Normally, the horse cools itself by sweating. Heat is lost and the body cools as sweat evaporates from the skin’s surface. Less moisture evaporation occurs in times of high humidity, causing the cooling mechanism to become less efficient... 

If humidity is more than 75%, heat stress is a likely result due to inability to sweat regardless of ambient temperature. 

"Common terms for horse overheating include hyperthermia, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, heatstroke or sunstroke...Horses undergoing prolonged hard or fast work during hot weather, horses exposed to direct sunlight without shade, young, poorly conditioned horses, and horses with long hair coats are susceptible to heatstroke or sunstroke. 

"Prolonged exposure to high temperatures also results in dilation of surface blood vessels... Death can occur within a few hours if the horse is not cooled and does not receive emergency veterinary care."

***

http://www.horsechannel.com/horse-exclusives/avoid-horse-heat-traps.aspx  "Too Hot To Trot? Avoid Potential Heat Traps For Your Horse," by Sarah Christie, June 28, 2007, HorseChannel.Com

But as a horse becomes more fit, he also becomes more efficient at dissipating heat. Less demand is placed on working muscle groups. Less exertion means less heat ...

"As temperatures rise, so do the risks of your horse experiencing heat stroke, dehydration and other health problems associated with heat. If not recognized and treated properly, these health issues can be debilitating and even life threatening...

"Temperature Control

"Horses and humans have something in common—both rely on sweating as the primary means of internal temperature control, or thermoregulation. In fact, it can be said that the horse’s physiology in some ways resembles a radiator, designed to circulate fluids and dissipate heat. Tiny glands beneath the skin produce beads of sweat, which evaporate soon after they come into contact with the air, cooling the surface of the skin. Those bulging veins and delicate capillaries on the neck and shoulders of a hard-working horse are taking advantage of the evaporative process to cool the blood by routing it near the surface of the skin. As the blood is cooled and recirculated, it helps regulate core body temperatures. The dilated nostrils that bring in huge volumes of oxygen to the lungs also exhale body heat with every breath. Under normal circumstances, these natural adaptations are sufficient to keep a horse’s body temperature within safe parameters. But when horses are asked to exert themselves in conditions of high heat and humidity, the potential for heat-induced illness is very real.

"Hot Stuff

"What would be considered moderate exercise under temperate weather conditions can have the same effect as intense activity when the heat and humidity rise. 

"Dehydration

"Dehydration literally means 'to remove water.' But horses don’t just lose water when they sweat. They also lose essential minerals and salts, called electrolytes (potassium, sodium, chloride, calcium, magnesium and other ions), which are essential to all of the body’s metabolic processes and nerve functions...Severe dehydration is a serious condition requiring IV fluids. If not attended to properly, severe dehydration can cause colic, collapse and even death...

"The harder the body works, the more energy it burns.  One of the waste products of this process is heat.  How efficiently the body rids itself of this heat is determined not just by ambient temperature and humidity, but also by the physical and metabolic condition of the body itself.  Heavily muscled horses such as American Quarter Horses and warmbloods have a greater challenge dissipating internal body heat than lighter breeds, such as the Arabian and the Thoroughbred...

"Just remember, if you are hot on top of the saddle, your horse is even hotter under it. When in doubt, chill out."

*** 

Experts on heat index (temperature plus humidity): when it is dangerous for horses to work:

New Mexico State University Extension horse specialist Jason Turner reminds horse owners that intense exercise coupled with a high ambient temperature can quickly put a horse in the danger zone of heat-related illness: http://www.horsetalk.co.nz/2014/05/27/equine-specialist-warns-heat-related-illness/

A US specialist has warned of the dangers of heat-related illness in horses with the summer heat just around the corner in the northern hemisphere. Summer is the ...

'“The heat index, which is the temperature plus humidity, gives a means of assessing the danger that extreme environmental conditions pose to horses performing intense exercise in such an environment.”

'If the heat index is less than 130...the horse’s built-in cooling mechanisms are usually capable of dissipating the excess body heat generated during exercise.

'“However, when the heat index is greater than 150...the horse will probably need assistance in order to prevent heatstroke,” Turner said.

'“Owners should proceed cautiously when, or seek alternatives to, exercising horses in situations where the heat index is greater than 170 or the relative humidity is above 75 percent, since these conditions severely diminish the effectiveness of the horse’s thermoregulatory systems."'

***

"Beating the Heat--Caring For Performance Horses in Hot Weather," by Karen E. Davison, Ph.D., Manager – Technical Services, Purina Mills, LLC, March 22nd, 2012.

http://www.nbfeed.com/articles/beating-the-heat-caring-for-performance-horses-in-hot-weather-2012-03-1835

Heat and humidity put an added burden on horses during training, showing and hauling. Horses are actually better equipped to work in cold weather than in the heat.

"A simple calculation of Ambient Temperature (° F) + Relative Humidity (%) – Wind Speed (mph) will indicate heat stress risk level. For example, ambient temperature of 98°F with a 55% relative humidity and wind at 5 mph; 98 + 55 – 5 = 148. If the calculation equals 130 or less, then the horse’s own cooling mechanisms will work effectively. Between 140 and 170, the horse has partial cooling capacity and may need some assistance cooling down. When the result is greater than 180, the horse has a significantly impaired ability to cool and is at high risk for heat stress or even heat stroke."

***

Department of Animal Science, University of Connecticut.   Effective Horse Management – Horse Health Series.  "Heat Stress: Too Hot To Trot?" by Jenifer Nadeau, M.S., Ph.D, Associate Professor, Equine Extension Specialist. http://animalscience.uconn.edu/extension/documents/heatstress.pdf

FACT SHEET Department of Animal Science, University of Connecticut Effective Horse Management – Horse Health Series Heat Stress: Too Hot to Trot?

Below is a table that will help horse owners determine when it is too hot to work a horse. If humidity is more than 75%, heat stress is a likely result due to inability to sweat regardless of ambient temperature.

Heat Index:

Ambient (outside temperature) + relative humidity (◦ F)          Horse's efficiency of cooling 

Less than 130                                                                              Most effective 

130-150                                                                                       Decreases 

Greater than 150                                                                         Greatly reduced 

Greater than 180                                                                          Conditions could be fatal if horse is stressed 

***

"Too Hot To Trot? Avoid Potential Heat Traps For Your Horse," by Sarah Christie, June 28, 2007, http://www.horsechannel.com/horse-exclusives/avoid-horse-heat-traps.aspx

"What would be considered moderate exercise under temperate weather conditions can have the same effect as intense activity when the heat and humidity rise. When is it too hot to trot? A good rule of thumb when assessing how the heat will affect your workout is to measure the Heat Stress Index (HSI). If the sum of the temperature in degrees Fahrenheit plus the percent of humidity totals less than 120, all systems are 'go.' If the sum is greater than 150, particularly if humidity contributes to more than half of this number, your horse’s natural cooling mechanisms will be compromised...If the HSI is greater than 180, a horse cannot regulate his core body temperature naturally, so he should not be forced to work."