Having a horse comes with a lot of responsibilities, especially when you are distance traveling from point A to point B. Here are several tips that can help you and your equine friend make traveling more enjoyable and stress-free.
#1 Stay Up To Date On Veterinary Check-Ups
Your horse should not only visit your veterinarian at least once a year, but they should also pay a visit before you plan on traveling with them. It’s important to know your horse's limits, and if they are not up to the outing to keep them from getting injured or worn out. During your veterinary check-up you should refer to the health requirements of the state that you will be visiting. For example, the Kentucky Horse Council requires paperwork that shows proof that your horse has had their proper vaccinations and testing. While all states require proof of a current Coggins test and certification within 30 days of the date of travel. Just like you wouldn't leave home without your ID or license, your horse shouldn’t leave without their proper documentation.
#2 Box Stalls Are The Safest Option
If you only have a simple standing stall in which you transport your horse, you should consider switching to a box stall to limit your horses’ stress when traveling. A simple standing stall is barely wider than the width of the horse, and quite simply, it’s very similar to a bumpy ride in the middle seat when flying coach. Not fun. A box stall allows your horse to safely travel without being cross-tied. In a box stall, your horse will be able to move their head freely and even lay down if they have been on their feet for too long.
#3 Keep Your Horses Allergies In Mind
Your horse will feel more comfortable with the use of bedding while traveling in a trailer, but keep in mind that you should make sure their bedding isn't dusty. Horses are very prone to be affected by allergens in the air around them. Dust can irritate your horse's eyes and possibly cause respiratory problems. If you know that dust will be a problem, or that your horse is especially affected, look at options to take away this issue before it becomes a problem.
#4 Expect The Unexpected
Make sure that your horse’s tack box is properly stocked with an equine first aid kit in case of an emergency. It’s important to pick up a general first aid kit for yourself as well. Whether it be something unexpected happen to you while traveling or at a show, it’s better to be safe and prepared!
#5 Weigh Your Horse
During shipping, it's normal for your horse to experience weight loss. Studies have shown that horses can lose up to 5% of their body weight when traveling 12 or more hours, regardless of cool conditions. A healthy horse can regain their strength and weight within three to seven days of long distance travel. In order to accurately determine how many days your horse will need to recover you can get a better sense of just how long that will be if you weigh them prior to travel and upon arrival.
#6 Plan Your Route Accordingly
Planning a route to your destination based on traffic and weather conditions can be imperative to your horse's comfort, and your sanity. If night traveling is possible, it’s not only a great option to avoid traffic, but your horse has more of an opportunity to be at ease in cooler temperatures. A hot metal trailer in mid-day could reach up to 20 degrees or more warmer on the inside than outside.
#7 Rest Stops Are Key
While it is not recommended that your horse should be unloaded from your trailer during rest stops, it is recommended that you stop to open the windows for at least 20 minutes to increase new and fresh airflow. If your journey will take up 12 hours or more, your horse should be stabled for at least 8 hours to ensure that they are rehydrated and their respiratory tract is cleared.
#8 Keep Your Horse Hydrated
On average, your horse should be offered water every three to six hours. Keep in mind that some horses will not drink water that tastes or smells unfamiliar, so bringing or sending a supply of your own water with your horse may be beneficial. Flavored water can also be used to ensure your horse will keep drinking. Some horse owners will acclimate their equine friends to Kool-Aid or Gatorade being added to their water supply in case there are changes in the water that they may notice. While this can be worthwhile, electrolytes should not be administered unless necessary, as it could have adverse effects on your horse's water and electrolyte balance.
#9 Be Aware Of Shipping Fever
Shipping fever is another reason why switching over from a standing stall to a box stall is recommended. Shipping fever is a term for any viral or bacterial respiratory infection that your horse may catch while traveling that will result in a strong cough. This cough could sometimes last for up to four weeks post travel. The best way to avoid this is by making sure that your horse can drop their head in the stall. A box stall is large enough for your horse to be able to move their head without any struggle. Another way that shipping fever can be prevented is by shipping your horse with a second horse. Shipping fever is triggered by stress, and allowing your horse to have a friend can make them feel more relaxed.
#10 Recovery Needs Time
Even if you believe that your horse is well-traveled, they will still need time to recoup before being put back to work. A full 24 hours of rest is necessary to sufficiently get your horse back into performing shape. Don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian if your horse refused to feed, exhibits nasal discharge, or has an elevated rectal temperature upon arrival. It’s always better to be safe than sorry if your horse seems to be acting abnormally.
As you begin to feel more comfortable traveling with your horse, these tips and tricks will become second nature to you. In the meantime, a simple guide for a base to refer to before you commence on your excursion. For more information about Equine Medical & Surgical Associates or if you need a little bit more advice, please visit our website and we will be happy to help you. You might also find some of our well-loved products to help your friend through their travels!