Hauling the Long Haul: Part I

You've worked all summer to accumulate points, and finally after all these years, you're going to the big show. The only problem is that the big show is halfway across the country. Travel always entails a certain amount of preparation, and traveling with your horse requires a bit more. Preparing for the "long haul" should begin weeks before your actual departure date.You've worked all summer to accumulate points, and finally after all these years, you're going to the big show. The only problem is that the big show is halfway across the country. Travel always entails a certain amount of preparation, and traveling with your horse requires a bit more. Preparing for the "long haul" should begin weeks before your actual departure date.

Story originally posted by: Michael Lowder, DVM, MS University of Georgia

You’ve worked all summer to accumulate points, and finally after all these years, you’re going to the big show. The only problem is that the big show is halfway across the country. Travel always entails a certain amount of preparation, and traveling with your horse requires a bit more. Preparing for the "long haul" should begin weeks before your actual departure date.

The first thing on your new ‘To Do’ list is to have your truck and trailer serviced. This should be done at least two weeks prior to travel to insure adequate time to correct any problems discovered. Servicing your trailer should include packing the wheel bearings, checking all wiring connections, and replacing any weak or suspicious flooring. This is also a good time to check the wear of tires and correct any cosmetic irregularities. Make sure your truck is equipped to haul the weight of your horse over the course of your travel. For example, pulling a four-horse trailer on level terrain is not the same as going over the top of mountains.

Know the weather you will be driving into. Going to the Midwest or up north may require tires with greater traction due to the possibility of snow than if you stay in the southern part of the United States. Additionally, horses acclimated to cooler temperatures may need special attention when traveling to the hot and humid South. A blanket packed with supplies can be added or removed as necessary as the temperature fluctuates.

Vehicle Safety Tips and Equipment List:
1. Check tire pressures on the truck and trailer. Don’t forget the spare tires.
2. Equip your toolbox with electrical tape and wiring, wrenches, flashlight, penetrating oil (to loosen those rusty lug nuts), lug wrench, jumper cables, fuses, etc.
3. Check that your fire extinguisher is charged. Place one in the truck cab and in the trailer living quarters.

4. Make sure you have a jack that will lift the trailer (with horses inside) or a wheel block to pull one trailer tire onto to get the other one off the ground. Don’t stop on soft or sandy ground to change tires, as the jack will often sink into the soil.
5. Pack road flares and reflectors to alert oncoming traffic.
6. Lock the trailer doors when you stop to dine. This will insure that your horse isn’t let loose in the parking lot by curious bystanders! Remove the locks before starting on the trip again.
7. Make a list of phone numbers of friends and associates along your route in case you need help. Keep your cell phone handy.

Clean the horse area of your trailer (hopefully this was done after the last show). Whereas the electrical and mechanical aspects of your trailer may need a professional opinion, the horse area of your trailer can be cleaned and assessed fairly easily. Begin by removing all bedding and the rubber mats. Although a pressure washer is more efficient in removal of dirt and debris, scrubbing the inside with a long-handled broom and a mild soap is acceptable. The mats can be cleaned separately and allowed to air dry; the absence of rubber mats facilitates complete drying of the wood flooring within the trailer. Wood flooring may take a day to dry completely. Weak or rotten boards should be replaced at this time.

Allow enough time for the inside of the trailer to dry prior to loading. Once clean, you must select the type of bedding you are going to use. This in part will depend upon the type of bedding your horses are accustomed. The most common bedding materials are shavings and straw as they are readily available and can be purchased across the country.

Put shavings, not sawdust, in the trailer as the sawdust will blow around more and create a respiratory hazard to your horse. The bedding should be a few inches (4") deep. If your shavings are a little too fine, dampen them prior to traveling.

Soiled bedding and manure must be removed at the end of the day, and the trailer should be ‘aired’ overnight prior to adding new bedding. This is a very important step as inhaled irritants (fumes) from the urine soaked bedding can irritate the horse’s respiratory tract. This is even more important with small foals and ponies whose noses are closer to the floor.

Type and quantity of feed necessary for your trip should be assessed. If you are using a local feed, then you must carry enough feed to get you to the show and back (or enough to allow you to gradually change feed at the show). Changing feeds is a risky event as changes in housing and feed are a common cause of colic in show horses. Therefore, it is best to select a national feed brand that is widely available at feed stores across the county. If you desire to stay with your local brand, then you can switch your horse over to the national brand about 4-6 weeks prior to traveling and slowly make the change back to your local brand after the big show.

Changing hay type (grass vs. legume) can cause colic as quickly as changing type of grain. Whatever type of hay your horse is used to eating, also try to stay with it. Hay cubes are an excellent compliment to hay. It is beneficial to have your horse used to eating a national brand of hay cubes as they can be stored and accessed better than bales of hay. Hay cubes will not serve as a source of dust and mold for your horse. In addition, have your horse used to eating them soaked in water (no more than 5-10 minutes). These soaked cubes can serve as an extra source of water for your horse during travel.

Wet mash grains provide an extra source of water, and wheat bran added to the diet has the added benefit of keeping their bowels moving. As a bonus, a few treats, e.g., carrots, added to the mash may entice the horses to eat. Part two will cover watering and feeding while on the road, positioning horses in the trailer, and what papers you should carry with you while traveling.

Read Hauling the Long Haul: Part II.