Traveling With Horses

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By: Brad Harter

While traveling with our horses today has become more commonplace today than ever before, the number of horses that are injured or that even lose their lives while in transport is alarmingly high. With some basic planning, good prevention and timely intervention, virtually all of these injuries and deaths can be avoided.

With the advent of the Internet, planning your trip and knowing that you have covered all the legal aspects is easier than ever before. It is your responsibility to know what legal papers will be required. This is true not only for the state that is your destination, but also what is legally required in all the states you will be traveling through. A vehicle or trailer breakdown may require you to unload and even remain in a state which may have very different legal requirements from either your home or your destination state. All states require a current negative Coggins test. While most states require that test to be taken within 1 year, a few states require it within 6 months. Also required is a Health Certificate issued within 30 days of travel. Certain states require specific vaccines which may vary from your home state. Knowing the current rules for every state you will be passing through is your responsibility.

When planning your trip you should always allow extra travel time with horses. A good rule of thumb is to add 15 to 20 minutes for every two hours on the road when traveling with horses.

While it should almost go without saying, your trailer should have a thorough inspection at least once a year. Pull the floor mats and inspect the floor, especially if your trailer has a wood floor. Make sure the wheel bearings are cleaned, greased, and properly adjusted. Check tires for proper inflation as well as dry rot and tread condition. And, extremely important, make certain the electric brakes are in good shape and working properly on all four wheels.

A good friend, who is a large animal veterinarian, travels thousands of miles every year with his own horses. He is a firm believer that 90% of horse-related travel problems are tied to dehydration. While most people tend to worry about their horses not being fed either hay or grain while traveling, the real problems stem from horses becoming dehydrated. It’s unlikely that most horses get on a trailer having recently tanked up with fluids. This results in many horses beginning their trip at least partly dehydrated. This problem can quickly get worse when you understand that horses don’t have the same signal mechanism to drink that humans have. When humans sweat, we retain some of our salt. That retained salt signals our body that we are thirsty and need to drink. When horses sweat, they lose salt and, consequently, don’t get the same signal to drink that we do.

Once a horse begins to dehydrate, the problem just gets worse. Preventing this is relatively simple. Do everything possible to get 5 gallons or more of fluids in your horse a few hours before travel if possible. A popular product on the market today called “Horse Quencher” works wonders, not only to get horses to drink once dehydration starts, but also in getting them to tank up prior to travel. While horses can benefit from electrolytes, be aware that electrolytes should only be given to horses that are well hydrated. Monitor horses closely during travel. Encourage them to drink every 4 to 6 hours. Avoid dry hay and especially hay cubes unless horses are getting plenty of liquids. Another product designed to help hydrate horses in travel is Hydration Hay – a hay product that is designed to be soaked in water for horses to eat in transit, rather than dry hay.

In the past, the best way to intervene with problems horses might be having on a trailer was to stop often and visually check your horses. Once underway, most people resist stopping unless they need fuel or food for themselves. Large fuel tanks and food on the go can mean many hours elapsing before we may be alerted to problems our horses are experiencing. Horses can be down on the floor, have their feet hung in hay bags, or be pawing and exhibiting early signs of colic. In the past it could be hours before we became aware of these problems.

Now potential problems can be seen much sooner with a variety of remote cameras on the market that allowing monitoring horses while in route. There are several companies that  manufacture remote camera monitoring systems. One of the most versatile is a system manufactured by Hyndsight Vision Systems. With rechargeable lithium batteries in both the camera and monitor, both units can be operated without having to be hardwired. Hard wiring to a power source is an option if the camera and monitor are going to be used for more than five hours at a time. Up to four cameras can be monitored at any one time. No other remote camera system on the market today offers more versatility, true wireless operation, or more rugged construction than the Hyndsight Vision System. If you stop for the night and put your horses in stalls, pens, or just tie them to the outside of the trailer, the versatility of this system will allow you to easily move the camera or monitor wherever needed.  With up to a 300-foot signal range and no installation or hard wiring required, the Hyndsight system’s potential is limited only by your imagination. Move it from one location to another with ease by using the numerous mounting options available. Water resistant and weather proof, this rugged camera and monitor system is designed to ensure safe transport wherever you go. The piece of mind you will experience just knowing your horses are traveling comfortably and safely makes investing in this equipment worthwhile.

Future articles will focus on what emergency equipment to have while traveling with your horses, including veterinary products, mechanical items for on the road repairs, and the safest way to change tires without removing your horses. 

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