Horse travel can be a challenge for horse owners of every experience level, but as difficult as it can be for you, travel is even more stressful for your horse. After all, he has no idea where he’s going, when he’s going to get to his destination or what’s going to happen when he gets there. While you’re doing the driving, he may be busy worrying himself into a frenzy.
By preparing your horse for travel, be it a short trip or a multiple night haul, he’ll learn to relax and trust that you’ve got his best interests at heart. Here are five of our favorite tips for getting your horse ready for an adventure:
Establish a Routine. Horses are smart animals and easily pick up on patterns. If you travel frequently or plan to do so, it’s a good idea to establish a routine so your horse can get used to the idea of travel. For example, a week before you leave, you might give him a body cut, three days before you leave, make sure his horse blanket or sheet still fits, and so forth.
Pre-Travel Checkups. Traveling is stressful for horses and if they’re traveling far, the limited space in a horse trailer can exacerbate already present illnesses. Always take your horse to the vet for a pre-travel checkup to make sure he’s safe to travel. While you’re there, get copies of all your horse’s recent vaccination paperwork, as well as a clean Coggins certificate — many horse events will need to see them before your horse can participate.
Practice Loading. If your horse isn’t a dead broke loader or you’ve been shopping for horse trailers for sale, it’s a good idea to practice loading in the week or so before it’s time to travel. A new trailer may take some getting used to, but even if your horse is intimately familiar with the trailer, a bad experience might mean he needs more time to get comfortable again. Rushing your horse to load on the morning it’s time to go is the worst thing you can do, period, so make sure he’s comfortable ahead of time.
Feeding and Watering. Increasing your horse’s forage a week or so ahead of time can help him gain a few extra pounds before traveling and can help ensure he’ll stay hydrated in case he goes off his feed. Adding a B vitamin supplement may also help boost his appetite. In addition, if you’re traveling far, start adding apple juice to his water several days in advance and continue doing so throughout your trip. This will help your horse more readily accept water from local sources as you travel.
Consider Travel Boots. Travel boots are helpful to prevent injuries to your horse from stumbling or stepping on his own legs during short trips, but may not be the best solution for long trips. You’ll have to weigh the benefits and risks, but if you decide to boot him during travel, it’s a good idea to let him get used to wearing his boots in his stall for short periods before you put them on him in the trailer.
Hauling a horse is just as stressful for the animal as it is for you, so make sure that your horse is fully prepared to travel days before you hit the road. By establishing a travel routine, practicing loading and keeping your horse fully fed and hydrated, you’ll set him up for success no matter your destination.