How to Travel Safely With Horses: Protecting Precious Cargo
If you have never traveled a significant distance with your horse it can be a little intimidating.
Article from Raye Lochert Horsemanship
Everyday untold numbers of tractor trailers motor down the road carrying materials from here to there. Before
being entrusted with a rig weighing in the neighborhood of 80,000 pounds, truck drivers spend time in school
learning about the working parts of their truck and trailer and how to maintain them. This includes doing a pre
-trip inspection and how to strap and secure loads so they will arrive safely and not be a danger to other
motorists en route. Several tons of load whizzing down the road at 60 miles per hour poses a significant danger if not responsibly handled and transported.
Horse owners are also embarking on something potentially dangerous—for themselves, their horse, and other
motorists—when ferrying several thousand pounds of truck, trailer, and precious equine cargo from one place
to another. Though some people rarely leave their farm or boarding facility, or venture much further than the local park, others travel many miles for their next horse adventure.
If you have never traveled a significant distance with your horse it can be a little intimidating. You may have
many questions before you feel comfortable loading up your horse and hitting the road. It is a good idea to follow the example of America's truckers and learn some basics before doing so.
The Pre-trip Inspection
Let’s start with the truck. Check or change the fluids and make sure you have plenty of fuel. You should also
check hoses, belts and air cleaners as well. These are simple inspections that any friendly mechanic can help
you with if need be. Also inspect the condition of your tires (including the spare!), making sure they are not
cracked or bald and are sufficiently filled with air. Lastly, take a second to check lights, turn signals and
brake lights and then clean all the mirrors and windows so you will have an unobstructed view while driving.
Now on to the trailer. I like to start with the axles and make sure they have been lubed. Most trailers have
simple grease fittings that allow you to easily grease them. While there, check the condition and the pressure
of all the tires and the spare. Make sure the interior is clean, bee free, and there are no broken latches, torn
padding or sharp edges. If your trailer has a wood floor it is very important that you pull out the mats and
check for rotted wood. Having a floor board give way while hauling down the road can be disastrous. Hook
the trailer to the truck and make sure the hitch is well lubricated and the ball size is correct. Connect the lights
and check all signals, running lights and brake lights. It’s no fun trying to change lanes with a loaded horse trailer when your turn signals don’t work.
Long before your trip you should be practicing loading and unloading your horse. If you wait until travel day
you will likely frustrate yourself and your horse and show up late to your destination. Make sure your horse is
totally comfortable getting in and out and has taken short trips successfully. The more comfortable your horse
is the less likely it will arrive with a stress related illness. If you use shavings, slightly dampen them to reduce
airborne dust and flakes. Putting shavings in the trailer will encourage horses to urinate on long trips and soak up any urine or sweat improving traction inside.
Feeding your horse in the trailer on long trips can be beneficial as the chewing action will have a calming effect
. Again it is a good idea to slightly dampen the hay to minimize dust. It also has the benefit of adding water to
your horse's system. Sometimes horses don't drink while traveling. You can encourage them to consume
more water prior to the trip by adding salt or electrolytes to their feed in the days leading up to the trip. When
adding these items to your horse's diet make sure they have plenty of fresh, clean water available. Don't add
these to your horse's feed on the day of travel since water won't be available in the trailer during travel.
Roads can be bumpy, winding and you might have an occasional sudden stop. Therefore placing shipping
boots and some sort of head bumper on your horse is cheap insurance. These items can decrease or prevent
your trip becoming a nightmare. I also like to put a fly mask on to prevent flying objects from getting into
horse's eyes. My personal preference is to tie my horse in the trailer and use the dividers. I feel the dividers
give the horse support, allowing it to use less energy while traveling. Horses can build up a lot of heat going
down the road so I have a garden thermometer in my trailer. This helps me know when to blanket my horses
and when to open more windows. Air flow in the trailer is important, but not so much as to chill the horse or create flying dust.
Horse Hauling 101
Once traveling, it is a good idea to stop every four hours and allow your horse to rest and drink, if they will,
for about 20 minutes. How far you go each day is up to you. Horses can travel for many hours, but the
shorter the better. Sometimes it just isn't convenient to drive for two or more days and you need to push
through. In this case you need to stop and allow your horse to lower his head and blow, something he does
naturally, and repeatedly, during the course of each day. In a trailer it is difficult to do so causing poor
drainage of the nasal cavity. This can cause upper respiratory illnesses, including nasal discharge and coughing.
I have trained my horses thoroughly so I feel comfortable taking them out of the trailer at rest stops. If you
chose to do this your horse must be well mannered under halter and not easily spooked by trucks, cars,
people and dogs. If you have any doubts leave the horse in the trailer. A loose horse near the freeway is a recipe for a serious disaster.
When you arrive at your destination you should hand walk your horse for at least 15 minutes. This will get the
blood flowing in the lower legs and stimulate the horse's digestive system. Turnout in an enclosed space is
great, if possible, so the horse can move freely and roll. After this settling time I move my horse to his home
away from home and give him fresh water and feed, adding salt or electrolytes to his meal to stimulate him to
drink. Once my horse has rested overnight he is ready to be my partner for the next adventure, whatever it may be. Safe travels.
Contact: Sharon Lochert
4275 Arcadia Lane
Santa Rosa, California
Phone: 888-570-2470 (toll free)
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