Tips For Safe & Stress Free Travels with Your Horse
Tips For Safe & Stress Free Travels With Your Horse
By: Jessica Drexler, PAS
The warmer months bring horse shows, clinics, trail rides and horsey vacations to many horse owners. While you may eagerly look forward to your weekend horse show or week-long trail riding vacation, things “out of routine” can be stressful for horses. Set your trip up for success by getting yourself and your horse well prepared by following these tips:
A Week Before Your Event
- Pack enough feed/supplements/hay for the trip plus a few additional buffer days. Time and time again, an owner runs out of a feed essential and scrambles to find feed or more hay at the show or on the way home—don’t let this happen to you! Bring more hay than you think you need. It is not a good time to change feeds or hay abruptly. If you have a feed/supplement change in mind, transition your horse 1-2 weeks before you leave (i.e. adding electrolytes to water or transitioning in some StressFree Forage that you will travel with to help keep your horse eating and drinking while they are at a new location). It’s also a good idea to find feed stores near your destination that carry the items you currently use.
- Get your horse ready to leave home. Does your horse have a barn buddy? You may want to try some trailer rides, trips and time away from the buddy well before your trip. Worse case, the buddy goes with your horse to ease them during travel. Your horse should also be trailer ready—easy to load/unload and haul quietly. *Make sure you are also ready to travel with these tips.
- Check and recheck your riding gear and personal needs. Whether it’s a show or trail ride, you tend to need a lot of items and should bring back ups as well. Think about what you may need if a piece of tack breaks. Think about everything from another pair of boots, one more spare halter/lead rope, another saddle, bridle or even a hoof pick that could come in handy. You want to make sure everything is clean and in good condition too. Once you pack for your horse, you need riding attire, leisure clothing, and other items for you. Do NOT forget an equine first aid kit, human first aid kit and truck/trailer roadside kit.
- Check the weather and plan accordingly. Will it possibly storm or be 90 degrees and humid? Rain gear, fans, a hose, an extra water bucket or sponges may be needed depending on the expected weather. Prepare for the unexpected too.
- Be truck and trailer ready. This category could be another blog completely, but you need your truck and trailer to be in good working order and ready for the trip.
- Map out the best route and estimated time to get there. Know your driving route and alternatives if road issues come up. Know your destination and what to do when you arrive. In hot temperatures, the best times to travel are early morning or evening.
- Keep your horse’s comfort in mind. They should have access to some hay to munch on, be tied slightly lose and have good airflow in the trailer. Horses should be on safe flooring with some bedding (shipping boots and bumpers can be helpful). Plan for rest stops along the way. On longer drives, plan to stop for rest and water breaks every few hours; after a 6-7 hour drive, you may even stop for a 30-45 minute break. Only unload horses if you are in a safe area to do so.
At Your Destination
It won’t be like home for your horse, but you can do some things to help your horse feel comfortable during their stay:
- Check out the new location. As soon as you have parked and unloaded essentials, get your horse out to stretch their legs and check out the new place. A show ground can be filled with a lot of commotion and many horses will likely be excited or nervous. Let them look around and walk them. Find a few spots to allow them to graze. Then get them settled into their housing with some hay and water. If stalled, give them plenty of bedding. If kept in pens, make sure they are securely set up.
- Stay close to your home feeding routine. While hours of trail riding or early morning/evening show classes can change when your horse eats their meals, try to feed as close to their normal mealtimes as possible. Be sure they have free access to hay to keep them munching and their stomach filled—empty stomachs are more prone to ulcers and digestive upset. Know if your horse is a good drinker when away from home. Hauling water from home may be advised for “picky” horses.
- Packing up to go home. Be sure to pack up everything you came with. Be a courteous horse owner and leave the facility clean. This means properly disposing of trash, bedding, manure, extra hay, etc.
On the Road Again and Arriving Back Home
Hopefully you had a good trip or show, but there is nothing like home sweet home. Follow the same traveling tips to get home safely.
- Unpack and clean. As you unpack, it may be beneficial to clean and reinspect everything you had on this trip. Cleaned tack and organized items set you up to be ready for your next trip. Clean out your truck and trailer and reinspect everything as well.
- Get your horses settled back in. Check your horse for any signs of injury or illness. If you board or even have your horses at home, quarantining your horse for a week is a good way to make sure you don’t bring any illness back to the horses at home.
With some careful planning, you can set yourself and your horse up for a successful trip away from home. Wishing you safe travels and happy trails as you enjoy the remaining months of summer and fall events.