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    6 Tips for Transporting Horses

    Authored by Katie Navarra

    Travel can be as exhausting as it is exciting and necessary to get to lessons, competitions or off-property trail rides. Think how tired you feel after hours behind the wheel. Even on a short trip may make you feel drowsy or drained depending on the day. Your horse’s energy can also be zapped as you cruise down the highway. Changing temperatures, elevations and road conditions add to the stress of traveling. 

    Pre-travel conditioning is the first step to keeping horses healthy during travel. Keeping a horse exercised, well-fed and hydrated at home strengthens his resilience for travel. That way when you hook up and go, your horse will be set up for a trip.

    As you prepare for your next trip—be it near or far—consider these six tips to set your horse up for a smooth ride.

    How to keep your horse comfortable during transport

    1: Encourage drinking.

    Dehydration stresses the horse’s body and impacts his performance. On long trips, build in time for water breaks to offer your horse a drink. Some horses are fussy about drinking different water. If your horse is picky, bring several jugs of water from home. Adding electrolytes to the water can encourage horses to drink.

    2: Plan travel for cooler tempatures.

    Extreme temperatures can stress a horse during travel—especially long-hauls. Fully open windows and vents to provide as much air circulation as possible as you’re driving down the road. Record-breaking temperatures and high humidity may trigger a mild case of colic or laminitis in some horses. Talk with your veterinarian ahead of time to keep your horse healthy and comfortable and identify any risk factors for your horse. 

    If you know it’s going to be blistering hot, plan to travel during cooler times, such as overnight or early morning hours. Cold hosing a horse before loading him onto a trailer may also help provide cooling through evapotranspiration until the horse dries out.  

    3: Protect their legs.

    Applying shipping boots or wraps boils down to personal preference. Take into account the distance, the number of horses in the trailer, and the horse’s comfort level with travel to decide which is right for your horse. 

    Horses that are calm and comfortable in the trailer may not wear any leg protection. Protecting the coronet band is the priority when using wraps since that is where hoof growth starts. Bell boots are a simple solution for protecting this part of the horse. Fleece-lined shipping boots with Velcro closures are popular because they are easy to take on and off. They come in all sizes and can extend up to the horse’s hock and end just above the hoof.  

    Bandages applied over a quilted fabric are another option. It takes more skill to use wraps to ensure it isn’t too loose or too tight. Misapplied, they can do more harm than good. For example, a wrap that is too tight can cut off circulation and blood flow. Conversely, a too loose wrap can slip or shift during shipping and get tangled around the horse's legs.

    4: Provide good nutrition.

    Whether you’re hauling down the road to a lesson, a few hours away to an event, or across the country, a good trip starts before you ever leave the barn. Frequent travel can be hard on the horse and increasing stress levels are connected to weight loss. 

    Feeding a balanced diet with high-quality hay and feed at home ensures they’ll have the proper nutrition to carry them through a trip. Also, be sure that your horse is current on his vaccinations to protect him against common diseases.  

    5: Pack an emergency roadside kit.

    Flat tires can interrupt a trip of any length. Avoid getting stuck for hours by having the right tools stored in the trailer so you can quickly and easily change a blown tire. 

    • A wheel changing ramp. A drive-up ramp lifts the trailer five to six inches off the ground to make it convenient to change tires. 
    • Power impact driver. There’s nothing worse than fighting with stuck lug nuts. Include a power impact driver in your trailer travel kit and let the tool do the hard work. Be sure to keep the batteries charged.
    • Inflated spare tire.
    • Hazard triangles or flares to warn other motorists when you’re working on the side of the road.

    Prevention is the best strategy. Regularly check for worn or damaged tires and replace them before hooking up and hitting the road.

    6: Have a backup.

    If you travel often enough, it’s inevitable that at some point, you’ll experience a breakdown. Investing in a roadside assistance plan like USRider® can save you time and stress if you encounter trouble on the road, whether that’s from a dead battery, a flat tire, a lock-out scenario, or a need for fuel, oil, or water. USRider® plans also include emergency referrals for veterinarians, farriers and stables so you can keep your horses safe no matter what happens along the way. 

    More about horse ownership

    Showing is one of the most exciting parts of horse ownership. Check out this guide for essential gear to keep you event running smooth and fun.
    One of the most rewarding experiences you can have is getting to know a horse. This guide gives you all the information on how to care these gentle giants.