Whether you're competing, holidaying or transporting your horse for breeding, keeping your horse safe and comfortable while travelling is paramount.
Keep the trailer comfortable
In the hot summer months ventilation is crucial to a comfortable journey for your horse.
Keep the trailer windows open and ensure any vents are in the open position before you set off. If you can remove the upper rear doors, this will also help to keep the air flowing.
Try to minimise the amount of time your horse spends in a hot trailer: load the horse just before you leave, and make sure you stop in a shaded area.
You can also try travelling at cooler times of the day: early morning or evening.
In winter, don't make the mistake of closing all the vents and windows: your horse will still need some air movement. You can prevent chilly draughts by closing major windows or large vents but leave some open for good air circulation.
Consider your horse covering
Even a light sheet can cause heat stroke for a horse travelling in a dark trailer in the middle of summer, so it makes sense to choose your covering based on the weather conditions. Other factors to consider include:
- The thickness and type of your horse's coat – for heavy-coated horses, a sheet or blanket may actually compromise your horse's natural ability to regulate its temperature
- The type of trailer you are using, and the number of air vents and windows it has
- The time of day – you may need a light blanket early on a winter morning but not when you return home in the afternoon.
The number one thing to consider before travelling with your horse is vaccinations. Are they up to date? Check well in advance in case you need a booster dose while you are on the road and potentially in contact with other horses.
If your horse is on regular medication, make sure you bring enough along for the duration of the trip.
You should also pack a first aid kit for your horse (as well as yourself!). Read our article on what you should keep in an equine first aid kit.
Your vet should be able to advise you on vaccinations and other health requirements before you set off.
Protect your horse from trailer injuries. Try to avoid stop-start driving by planning to travel outside of rush hours or heavy traffic times in cities and towns.
Ideally, your horse should be tied in the trailer, but make sure you use enough length of lead rope to allow your horse to move its head and neck for balance.
If your horse is tied too short, it will have restricted movement and balance; but if it is tied too long, there's a risk of getting tangled up in the rope.
Use a lead rope that is thick enough to avoid the knot getting too tight. For safety's sake, you should tie a quick-release knot or use easy-release snaps in the trailer.
To keep your horse's legs injury-free, use leg wraps from the knee or hock downward to include the coronary band. If your horse paws or kicks your trailer, use knee and hock pads as well.
Other types of protection to consider include a “head bumper” and a tail wrap.
Pack an extra halter, lead rope and large snap just in case one breaks en route.
Taking a break
The key factor for your horse while on the road is air circulation, so try to keep long breaks to a minimum. Of course, make sure you don't get over-tired! If you do stop for a break, make sure your trailer is in the shade.
Unloading during a trip is a potential risk: your horse may be injured when you try to unload at a strange location. However, for long trips, your horse may benefit from being unloaded, exercised and allowed some time to eat and drink.
Food and water
If possible, take enough feed and hay to last for your entire trip.
Feeding free-choice hay to horses in transit can help make the trip more pleasurable for your horse, but make sure your container or hay net is secured so it does not get caught in your horse's legs or feet.
Bring your own buckets for food and water: this not only gives your horse something familiar and comforting, but it will also reduce the risk of picking up an infectious disease from contaminated containers.
Offer your horse water to drink every three to four hours on a long trip. They may choose not drink it, depending on the weather, but it makes sense to avoid the risk of dehydration!
If you plan ahead, and pack the right kit, your horse should have an injury-free and enjoyable journey, wherever you're headed!