Traveling more than a few hours with your horse can be stressful for everyone involved. Here are some important tips for making long distance horse hauling as smooth and easy as possible.
1. Before you go, make sure your horse is healthy.
Don’t take a horse to a competition or adventure unless she’s in excellent health. If she’s feeling a little under the weather now, she’ll feel worse when she gets there! Check her hydration, be sure her digestive system has been productive, and she’s alert and acting like her normal self.
2. Go easy on the grain a few days before your trip.
If you feed your horse grain, plan ahead and reduce the amount you feed her two to three days before you travel. No matter how you do it, long distance horse hauling puts stress on your horse's system. Grain products are harder to digest and can add digestive stress to the situation.
3. Start adding electrolytes to your horse’s diet a few days before you go.
Electrolytes ensure that your horse remains hydrated. They aid in the healthy functioning of her body’s systems. Adding electrolytes to her diet can improve her ability to handle the stress of the trip.
4. Transport your horse untied in a box stall if possible.
Give her plenty of space to shift her weight around and hang her head low. This helps her balance and relax. It also makes it easy for her to snort out dust and gunk that could settle in her lungs and possibly lead to respiratory problems.
5. Offer wet hay in the trailer.
A frequently overlooked long distance horse hauling best practice is to take steps to reduce particulate matter that your horse might be breathing on the trip. Soaking the hay in water reduces the dirt and dust that can get in her lungs in the swirling trailer air.
6. Offer water every three hours.
Do this quickly. You don’t want to stop for long. But give her a chance to hydrate - water is vital for keeping her feeling good.
7. For Very Long Distance Horse Hauling, Don’t trailer more than twelve hours in one day.
If you’re traveling very far, stop at a horse hotel for a nice, long night. If your horse can’t relax at the hotel, consider an herbal calming product for horses. If you are competing soon, be careful that it is allowed or there is enough time for it to pass.
8. When you arrive, check your horse for injuries.
Do a full-body check for swellings and cuts. Have your first aid kit handy! Horse trailers are an easy place to get injured.
9. When you arrive, hand walk your horse.
Her muscles have been pretty still for a while, so don’t turn her out in a paddock to run and play quite yet. Walking will loosen her joints and muscles.
10. Rest your horse for eight hours before working.
Let her walk, relax, lie down, and roll, do whatever she likes, for at least eight hours before asking her to do hard work. Long distance horse hauling can be as strenuous as riding or lunging and she will need a break before she can perform her best. Hand walk her every couple of hours. Let her eat grass. Let her know you’ve brought her to a happy place where her well-being is your top priority!