So… you are ready to go to your chosen equine event. You prepared through training, many many hours in the saddle and even survived a multitude of lessons. Your horse is in optimum shape and you see success around the corner. However, your event requires you to haul your horse. Just a few simple hauling tips will keep you and your horse in good shape.
Roadways can be brutal with all the road construction these days. Traveling at night may be a good idea to possibly limit your chances of being stuck in a traffic jam; no you cannot unload and practice your pole bending pattern around the orange barrels to pass the time. Night hauling also reduces the temperature in the trailer and the number of crazies on the road. Having hauled horses coast to coast, I can tell you stories that defy all logic when it comes to being cut off, expected to stop a loaded 6-horse trailer with living quarters and extended cab truck on a dime, or having to deal with those that hang in your blind spot with the kids pointing and waving at the horses. Am I right? Maybe I should write a book instead of a blog!
During long distance and local hauls in the summer months, heat can definitely affect the trailering experience for your horse. Be sure to use window screens and open the trailer roof vent for air circulation. Use fly spray to keep your horses comfortable and curtail stomping on the trailer. And go high tech with the trailer eyes video system to keep an eye on your precious cargo through your smartphone.
Gimme a Break
The constant motion of the trailer or being confined can stress your horse out. Increases and decreases in speed, changing lanes and stopping and starting all require your horse to balance and lock his legs. Bed your trailer with thick sawdust or shaving and consider wrapping all four legs using a leg quilt for support. Taking frequent breaks to water your horses and replenish hay will keep them occupied and their gut functioning properly. Break time also gives them a chance to unlock their legs. When you stop, open windows and doors for fresh air. A good rule of thumb is to take a 20-minute break every 4-hours and offer water. When parking, try to find a shaded area if possible. Also, keep in mind it might be unsafe to unload.
If your trip takes you overnight do some homework, call ahead, and make arrangements at a fairgrounds or horse hotel/campground to layover. Check websites for help. It is surprising how inexpensive this is and how your horse will benefit from the break. Carry plenty of hay, grain and, if possible, a 24-hour supply of water. For those horses being transported, start adding a flavored drink mix or powdered jello to their water buckets about a week before the trip. Add just enough to give it a fruity odor. Local water at your destination can smell and taste different to your horse. Continue to add these mixes when watering and your horse will be less likely to refuse to drink. Avoiding dehydration is always important. Remember to take some electrolytes just in case and keep an eye on the amount of urine and manure your horse is producing.
Here’s your sign
Know the equine vital signs. Talk to your veterinarian. Think of it as packing the car for vacation; have a checklist so you do not forget anything. If your horse is on any daily supplement or medication be sure to continue your regimen as prescribed by your veterinarian. Put together an equine first aid kit complete with bandage material, scissors, vet wrap, calming supplements, colic prevention, and a thermometer. Try to keep your horse on a similar feeding schedule, but reduce grain intake during your trip. Inactivity may cause intestinal issues. Check the health certificate requirements for your event. Set up a veterinary farm call to discuss and booster vaccines when appropriate.
Just like the scouts…be prepared for anything horse and trailer related. Pack a spare tire and a spare halter and lead. Carry a trailer ramp for changing flats and road flares or reflective marker to identify a breakdown. Pack a fire extinguisher. Have your truck and trailer serviced and be sure your emergency braking system is in working order. Your road trip will be less stressful with a little pre-planning. Oh and don’t forget your road snacks and horse treats!
Written by Web Products Specialist Kathy Kilbane