Long distance transport for the older horse
The details for preparing an older horse for a long trip are pretty much the same to move any horse long-distance, remembering that the recovery time for an older horse is longer than for a younger horse. Here are the steps to keep a horse safe and to make it a good experience. First let’s talk about the things that you should not do before setting off on a long trip. It is never a good idea to trim your horse’s feet or to vaccinate them a couple days before transport. How many times have we seen horses become footsore because of that trim. And of course, older horses have a higher chance of running a temperature after being vaccinated. If your horse requires a rabies certificate or requires new shoes, please do it several days prior to shipping.
The day of shipping, particularly when it is warm outside, to not grain your horse. Even with slight dehydration, a horse can impact colic from undigested grain in their system. Another note here, horses that are not great shippers have a higher incidence of ulcers. Transport can be highly stressful. Many horse vets recommend medications like Gastrogard to reduce the ulcer risk.
We’ll spend some time here talking about you transporting your horse. Later in the article I’ll have some thoughts about what to expect for your older horse by shipping with a commercial carrier. After you have successfully loaded your horse, one of the most important things you can do is to make their journey comfortable. You should not keep them tied. This prevents them from dropping their heads and keeping their sinuses clear, leading to congestion and possible pneumonia. Next, bring a sufficient supply of hay that they have been eating. Just as we are careful to slowly switch our horses from old hay to new hay at the barn, it is also important to be careful here, and not switch hay, if at all possible.
I recently transported a yearling filly The folks where I picked her up went out to the grain store and bought hay to go with her. It was not the hay that she was used to and she had loose poops as a result. It’s also important to have water available for your horse too. Most horses will not drink in the first 12 hours of transit. Particularly when it’s hot it is important to have water in front of them. We hang a Foraflex bucket and fill it half full while we are moving.
I recommend that you carry water that the horse is used to. It is not always possible but like hay it’s important to keep them eating and drinking the same things they used to at home. It’s also important carry water with you when it is hot weather, if for any reason you are delayed in transit. The last two things to consider when moving your horse cross country are blanketing in winter and rest. I encourage my clients to put a sweat sheet beneath the blanket. That way if the horse is a little upset and sweats up, the sweat has a chance to be wicked away from the body and not stay in the blanket and give them a chill. There are many thoughts about resting the horse in transit.
One is to stop for an hour every four hours to let the horse rest. Recently a study done at Texas A&M found that short periods of rest were not effective. Because I transport horses alone I need to stop each day for an eight hour rest period.
This gives the horses a chance to rest and recover and rehydrate. They come off the trailer fresh at the end of the journey. If time is not an issue and you want your horse off the trailer overnight, I recommend websites like HorseTrip.com that lists horse hotels across the country.
I wanted to take a moment to discuss commercial carriers and how they operate. Most commercial carriers have two drivers, and so equipment really never stops moving. Horses never get a chance to rest and recover. Also many carriers, never give horses their head, but keep them tied. Horses finish their trip often exhausted, dehydrated, and even sick. There are many trucking companies out there that the drivers are just that, drivers not horseman. They’re hauling freight, not horses. The other thing that happens with long-distance commercial carriers is that they don’t take the most direct route. Most recent example I can give you was a transport that I bid on and the person who bought the horse decided to have another hauler to the work, because he was cheaper. What the hauler did not tell him when he picked the horse up in Georgia to go to New York was that he was going via Texas.
Two things occurred here. First, the horse was coming from warmer climate to a winter climate and should have been blanketed for the second half of the trip. And second, the trucker did not tell the client that he was not taking the most direct route. The horse was on the trailer three days longer than necessary, exhausted and sick. So much for saving a couple hundred bucks for the transport. So when you need to use a commercial hauler there a couple of things that you should ask and get answered. First, is it the most direct route possible and second, you need at least three references. I What you horse reaches its destination. It is important to give them at least one day of no work to recover from the trip, and two days with no work is even better. I also suggest that y u give them a full day to rehydrate and not feed to any grain.
That’s it from here. Safe travel.