It has become commonplace to trailer horses everywhere. A short trip to the park for a trail ride, a lesson across town or an appointment at the vet clinic hardly seems worth the effort to take precautions...or does it? Traveling three states away for a horse show or field trip or traveling south for the winter used to be a big deal, but not any more. Horses are traveling more than ever before and because it`s done all the time, it`s easy to forget that trailering is a source of anxiety for the horse.
The very nature of the horse makes it stressful for him to enter a small, enclosed box that will speed down the highway at 65 mph. The horse is a creature made for open spaces, where instinctive flight responses can be life saving. A modern horse must learn to control the natural tendency to flee, and as responsible caretakers, we must take precautions to lower stress levels so he will not do harm to himself and others.
Most of these problems can be avoided just by taking suitable precautions. Some horsemen like to boast about how many successful trips they have taken without "all the fuss", but those same horsemen who have finally been out there - on he road - with a sick or injured horse never forget the hard earned lesson.
Any time the horse is loaded into a trailer, whether for short or long haul, these fundamental measures should be taken:
- Load Training: many avoidable injuries occur to horses while loading. A bad loader is not only aggravating but potentially dangerous.
- Trailer Safety: This means everything from `soup to nuts` - proper hitch, brakes, lights (...that work!)
- Inoculations: when taking your horse into a new environment with horses from all over, protection from diseases they may be carrying is cheap insurance.
- Wrap All Four Legs: either learn how to put on a good leg wrap or buy commercial shipping wraps - they are easy to put on and will protect the most vulnerable part of the horse.
- Ventilation: trailering horses in poorly ventilated trailers has been shown to be a cause of "shipping fever." Regardless of outside temperatures, open vents and windows. If it`s cold, add a blanket.
- Carry An Emergency First Aid Kit and back up supplies appropriate to the length of the trip - have a kit and keep it in the trailer - learn how to bandage wounds and what a dehydrated horse looks like. (Your own veterinarian is your best source of information).
- Medical I.D.: You should always have appropriate information about whom to call in the case of an accident - someone to help you and your horse in the worst case scenario - fix it to the inside wall of the trailer in full view.