Ashley Griffin, University of Kentucky
If you are going to take the horse yourself, how well you drive will certainly affect how well your horses travel. Many horses are poor travelers because of the way their owners drive. It is necessary to drive differently when traveling down the road pulling a horse trailer. You need to watch how you stop and start, change lanes, turn corners, and back up. Remember, your horses are in the trailer standing up. Before hauling your first horse, take an empty trailer out a few times for a practice drive. This will give you practice in negotiating traffic and road obstacles.For longer trips, you may opt to have your horse transported by a commercial hauler as well.
There are many styles of trailers available. You need to select the one that works for you. While there are more slant load trailers available, the two-horse side by side or the stock trailer may work well for the horses you have to haul.
In most trailers, the horses are tied. Make sure your horse has enough length of lead to allow adequate movement, with its head and neck for balance–but not too long a lead, as it can get tangled. The lead should be attached either with a quick release knot or quick release snap so the horse can be untied quickly in case of emergency.
How long should you go between stops? How often should you unload? What about feed and water? These are all good questions.
Where are you going and how long will the trip be? In general, most commercial trucking companies will stop every three to four hours. This is a good time for the driver to take a break and allows the horse some time to rest. During these stops you don’t need to unload, but you can water the horse and replenish the hay supply. When traveling for long periods of time, it is a good idea to fill several hay nets so that when you stop, you can easily and quickly replace the empty hay net with a full one. Bringing your own water drawn from the horse’s usual water source will reduce time spent searching for water while traveling and provide a more palatable drink of water for your horse. It is also a good time to check to see if the blanket and the leg wraps are still positioned correctly.
A stop should be 30 to 60 minutes in length. This will allow time for the horses to urinate if they need to; many won’t urinate while the trailer is moving. Make sure that while you are stopped, the trailer is as open as weather will allow, and park in the shade if you can. A trailer can get very hot while parked if there is little or no air moving through it.
In general, a horse should not be hauled more than 18 hours without being unloaded and given a extended rest period. When traveling great distances, plan your stops, and make sure the overnight location you choose is safe for unloading and loading. Allow both your horse and driver to get sufficient rest before continuing the trip. Horses can get very excited or hot and may become more difficult to handle in a strange place. If you need to unload during the trip, make sure you have control of the horse and the area is safe and secure.
Feed and Water
Feeding on the trip is important, and most horses will be contented travelers if they have a full hay net. As was previously mentioned, your horses need to be watered frequently on the trip. Watering every three to four hours is a good rule to follow. Of course, hotter weather may dictate more frequent watering. You may need to bring water from the horse’s usual water source or have your horse accustomed to flavored water (use Kool-Aid or some other flavoring agent) if you think they won’t drink the available water because of the taste. Hydration during long trips will help reduce health problems such as colic.
Should you use bedding in the trailer? Having some bedding such as straw or shavings will certainly help keep your horse comfortable. It will provide some cushion and can absorb urine. After the trip, remember to clean out the trailer and allow it to dry, which will help preserve the trailer’s floorboards.
For More Information on Horse Transport
- Horse Transportation
- Considerations When Hauling a Horse
- Pre-Travel Vehicle and Trailer Check for Hauling Horses
- Safe Loading Practices for Horses
- Blanketing and Wrapping Horses for Transport
The need for health papers and Coggins tests varies depending upon your travel destination.
When traveling out of state, horses should have a negative Coggins test drawn within six months of travel and have a valid health certificate certified by a veterinarian within 30 days of travel. Generally, the expected destination is also listed on the horse’s health certificate.
It is a good practice to check with your veterinarian and find out what the health regulations are in the states in which you will be traveling. Make sure all your paper work is correct and up to date before traveling, and don’t forget to take these important papers with you. State veterinarians and regulators may preform random health security checks and will generally be present at horse shows and events to verify that all paper work is in order. Failure to have such paper work may result in not being allowed to unload your horse, being sent home, and being ticketed or fined.
It may also be helpful to check with the organizers of events or managers of facilities to see if they have specific health requirements that may differ from state requirements. Some event managers may require a more current Coggins test or other specific health requirements.
In addition, if you are traveling to another country, check to see what the federal regulations are for transporting horses.
Keep the Air Moving
Ventilation is important when trailering horses. In most situations, all the vents and windows should be open during warm months to keep horses from getting too hot in the trailer. Even in winter months, don’t close up the trailer completely. Horses need fresh air moving through the trailer at all times.