Traveling With Your Equine

Warm Weather = More events, more time in the saddle, and more things to do with your horses!


Let's be real, most of us got a horse to either; 1. Have a companion or 2. Travel with. Your travels could be anything from competing in events or traveling across the country seeing sights through trail riding.


If you are traveling with your horses this season, or anytime, you need to make sure your horse is safe. Here are our tips on traveling with your horse.


1. Make sure your horse is healthy...and carry proof of it

Before a long trip have a veterinarian assess your horse's health to ensure he is up to the journey and to provide all the paperwork required to travel across state lines. You will need proof that your horse has had the proper testing and vaccinations and meets the health requirements for the state into which you are traveling. At the minimum, all states require a current negative Coggins test and certificate of veterinary inspection or health certificate within 30 days of the date of travel. If you are crossing state lines, you must have a health certificate. 


2. Avoid dusty bedding

No matter how skilled the driver, balancing on a moving trailer for hours isn't easy on a horse. Bedding the trailer can help reduce leg stress. Dusty bedding, however, should be avoided as it can cause respiratory problems and/or irritate your horse's eyes, especially when used in an open stock trailer. Consider the use of a fly mask if dust might be a problem or if you have hay in the trailer.


3. Consider box stalls for long travels.

While horses can be shipped safely in either a standing stall or box stall, box stalls are typically the better option. A UC Davis study of horses transported 24 hours by road in a commercial van found that it takes one day (24 hours) for white blood cells to return to their normal levels for horses transported in box stalls. It takes even longer (an additional day) for horses that have been cross-tied in standing stalls during the trip.


4. Be prepared for an emergency

No matter how well you prepare, you can never foresee all situations. It’s always a good idea to carry an equine first aid kit in case of an emergency. Be sure to store it in an easily accessible spot and to alert the driver to its location. Ask your vet for their must-haves in an emergency kit. Here is what is always in mine:

   Gauze (multiple sizes/styles), vet wrap, electric tape, syringe, needles, Bute, Banamine, and Ace-all with clear labels on dosage & how to administer.  Lineament, wound cream (such as swat), rectal veterinary thermometer (label it!), Hydrogen peroxide, latex gloves, quilted wraps, polo/standing wraps, pair of safety scissors, duct tape, and my vets emergency number for over the phone help. 

There are many more things you can put in your kit, but this is my basic starting kit.


5. Weigh your horse

It’s normal for horses to experience some weight loss during travel, particularly over long distances. Research has shown that horses can lose up to 5% of their body weight when traveling more than 12 hours, even under cool conditions. Most healthy horses will regain that weight within three to seven days of shipping. Weighing your horse prior to travel and upon arrival can help you determine how many days he may need to recover after a long haul. You can purchase a weight t ape measure to throw in your first aid kit to easy measurements. Keep a chart of your horses measurements, dates & times you measured with their coggins/health papers.


6. Plan your route

Consider both the route and time of day for travel prior to your trip. A trailer in the sun can be 20 degrees or more warmer inside than outside, which could make long waits in traffic uncomfortable for the horse. When the weather is very hot, night travel may be advantageous, as the temperature will be cooler and traffic is likely to be lighter.


7. Consider standing wraps

Standing wraps and bell boots can help protect your horse's legs and coronary band during shipping. But, cautions UC Davis's CEH Horse Report, they can become "a liability instead of an asset" with horses that are not already accustomed to wearing them. If you do wrap, acclimatize the horse to the bandages prior to shipping and watch for irritation and/or rubs during transit. Bandages should be changed daily. I will even apply lineament like Thermaflex under the wraps to add additional comfort & help recovery. Get Thermaflex from our shop!


8. Make regular rest stops

Rest stops are an important part of any road trip. The Kentucky Horse Council recommends that parking breaks take place every four hours, and last for at least 20 minutes—preferably in a shaded spot with open windows to increase airflow in the trailer. It is not recommended that horses be unloaded from the trailer, as many will be skittish with road noises in an unfamiliar setting. You can offer a bit of water at these stops.

For long journeys, horses should be unloaded after 12 hours of transport and stabled for at least eight hours to rehydrate and clear the respiratory tract. Make sure you stop at a safe, quiet place and have a good hold on your horse in case the spook from being in an unfamiliar location.


9. Allow free access to hay

While you should limit or eliminate grain from your horse's diet while traveling, free access to a horse's regular hay is advised during transport. Pack enough hay to last the entire trip, as well as a few days in the new location. On average, calculate 1/2 a bale, a horse, a day. If you hang a hay net, hay bag or feeder, it should be at chest height or higher and out of hoof's reach.


10. Keep your horse hydrated

To stay hydrated during his trip, horses should be offered water every three to six hours. The Kentucky Horse Council suggests sending a supply of your own water with your horse, as some will not drink water that tastes or smells unfamiliar. If you can't bring enough of your own water to last the whole trip, consider acclimating your horse to flavored water in advance. Adding Kool Aid or Gatorade to your horse's water can mask changes in water and help keep him drinking.


11. Avoid electrolytes unless necessary

UC Davis's CEH Horse Report notes that "excessive or uncontrolled administration of electrolytes may actually have adverse effects on water and electrolyte balance in the horse." Unless a horse has a history of dehydration or has not been drinking normally in the days leading up to and immediately before transit, administering electrolytes is not recommended prior to long journeys.

12. Prevent shipping fever

Shipping fever is a catch-all term for any viral or bacterial respiratory infection a horse may catch while traveling. Characterized by a strong cough, it can sometimes last for weeks after travel. One of the best ways to avoid shipping fever, finds Dr. Mueller, is to make sure your horse can drop his head while traveling and clear particulate matter from his respiratory tract. Since shipping fever is often triggered by stress, shipping with a second horse is advisable.


13. Give your horse time to recover

No matter how well your horse has traveled, he will need time to recouperate after a long trip before being put back to work. UC Davis's CEH Horse Report states that a full day of rest is usually sufficient for a horse that has journeyed six to 12 hours. For longer distances (or trips by plane), the recovery period can last two to three days. Contact a veterinarian if the horse refuses feed, exhibits nasal discharge or has an elevated rectal temperature upon arrival at his destination.


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