Traveling long distances is physically and mentally demanding for your horse. There are proactive steps that you can take to prepare your horse and to safeguard its health during the journey.
Your horse may decline water while traveling. Lack of water can cause dehydration and impaction colic. Dehydration increases the risk that your horse will have difficulty clearing waste matter from its digestive tract. This condition can evolve into a life-threatening complication if it is not recognized and treated early. You can prevent this health issue by increasing the moisture content of your horse’s food.
At least two weeks before the trip, acclimate your horse to eating soaked hay. You should also give your horse a delicious bran mash. Wheat is a popular ingredient, but rice is easier on the digestive tract. If you use wheat, gradually increase the rations to allow the horse’s gastrointestinal system sufficient time to adjust. You can flavor the mash with diced carrots or apples and molasses.
Some horses refuse to drink water that tastes or smells different from what they are accustomed to drinking. You can ease the transition by masking your horse’s water prior to the trip. Possible flavor options are alfalfa or barley grass, apple, carrot, peppermint or electrolytes. Insufficient salt intake can cause poor water consumption. Ensure that your horse receives at least two ounces of salt each day.
Schedule a pre-trip consultation with your horse’s veterinarian. This is especially important if you are transporting your horse across state lines or if your horse has chronic health issues. Some states require documentation that the horse has undergone a professional health inspection by a qualified veterinarian. A vet can provide specific guidance on how to lessen the impact of travel on your horse’s condition. In general, you should not transport a horse with an active respiratory infection. Shipping a horse while it is sick increases its risk for developing pleuropneumonia. When you transport your horse, ensure that the ties enable the horse to lower its head and clear its airways. The horse’s trailer should provide sufficient ventilation to prevent respiratory distress and overheating.
You should schedule food and water breaks at least every four hours. Plan to stop more frequently when the weather is hot or humid. Avoid traveling during the hottest part of the day. If your trip is longer than eight hours, consider planning a layover at a reputable stable.