Posted by Gabby Gufler, Thu, Apr 17, 2014
Spring has sprung, and it is time to hit the trails and the show arena! Although this time of year is exciting, hitting the road with your horse can trigger significant stress. So, whether your horse is a seasoned or rookie traveler, it is important to take precautions and be prepared before loading up and heading down the road.
By being aware of travel stresses and taking steps to minimize their impact, YOU can be sure your horse arrives in good condition after transport.
Transport your horse safely with these 10 helpful trailering tips:
- Avoid Fatigue. Did you know that the stress and muscular fatigue associated with transport are similar to those which result from exercise? If the travel time is more than 12 hours, try to plan overnight stops. It is suggested that competition or performance not be attempted less than 48 hours after a long trip, in order to allow the horse’s blood levels and hormones to return to normal. So, plan ahead if you are headed for long-distance travel!
- Keep Your Horse Hydrated. Horses are likely to become dehydrated during transportation. Dehydration can be moderated by offering water periodically during transport. Providing an electrolyte such as Bounce Back® will aid in the rehydration process and give your horse the energy they need to complete the journey. It is recommended to increase electrolyte supplementation 2 to 3 days prior to shipping.
- Allow Free Access to Hay. Hay is a great pacifier for traveling horses and helps retain water in their gut; however, in some trailers, dust from hay may blow directly into a horse’s respiratory tract. Wetting the hay can help control dust. Avoid feeding grain, as the stress may affect gut function and lead to colic or laminitis.
- Provide Good Ventilation. Pathogens from dried manure may overwhelm a respiratory system weakened by trailer stress. The trailer should be cleaned out before every trip. If available, open windows to allow airflow, as this will also help keep your horse at a comfortable temperature.
- Keep in Mind—Your Equine is Behind! Be a passenger-friendly driver and remember that a slow and steady journey is less stressful for a horse than a fast, swerving one.
- Supplement with Probiotics. Did you know that stress from travel can upset the balance of bacteria in your horse’s gastrointestinal tract? It is often recommended to feed a probiotic supplement such as Manna Pro® Opti-Zyme® during times of travel to help maintain the population of good bacteria in the gut.
- Leave Horses Untied or Tied Long for Long-Distance Travel. Horses that can lower their head below the point of their shoulders are less likely to suffer respiratory stress. This way they may take advantage of carrying their heads naturally and allowing mucus to drain. It is important to keep in mind that some trailer designs do not allow horses to lower their heads, and some horses have a tendency to fight with their neighbors. Allow horses to lower their heads only if possible.
- Educate Yourself About Loading. For horses, loading is usually the most stressful part of the trailering experience. Make sure you are comfortable with the procedure. Even if you are not going anywhere, load your horse several times a year and go on a short drive as a refresher.
- Learn How to Monitor Vital Signs. Learning how to measure your horse’s vital signs will help you monitor your horse during travel. If your horse is sick or hurt during the trip, you will also be able to give the veterinarian their current vital signs via telephone.
- Carry Emergency Supplies. Carry an emergency first aid kit and keep it in your horse trailer. Learn how to bandage wounds in various locations, control blood loss, and recognize the signs of dehydration and colic. It is also important to carry backup feeding supplies for the length of the trip. Your trip may take longer than planned. Manna Pro recommends supplementing with Bounce Back and Opti-Zyme during times of travel. Bounce Back is an electrolyte supplement that aids in the rehydration process, while Opti-Zyme will help maintain a healthy gastrointestinal environment.
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