We all enjoy getting out and about with our horses, whether it is to attend a local Pony Club rally, pop a few jumps at the weekend fun ride or serious competition further afield. However the worries of travelling can often take much of the fun out of the day, with both horses and owners becoming stressed. We have compiled a list of our top travel tips below to help you overcome any possible problems when travelling with your horse or pony:
- Top tips for before you travel
- Top tips for during travelling
- Top tips for after travelling
Before you travel
Allow plenty of time! The most important thing is not to rush. If you have plenty of time then you should be able to overcome any potential issues you may face, like a flat tyre or a horse not wanting to load.
Check the horsebox or trailer is in good condition before loading. It can be very dangerous loading a horse onto a box with rotten boards or broken metalwork.
When preparing to leave for a show, make sure everything (passport, tack, riding hat!) is in the lorry ready to go before loading the horse. This reduces the amount of time the horse is stood on the box and so can reduce stress levels.
Consider protection for your horse, especially if they are prone to moving around on the box. It may be worth investing in a tail bandage, travel boots and a poll guard.
Provide plenty of roughage before travelling. Ideally this would be hay or grass, but if time is short then give a handful of chaff. This roughage acts as a fibre mat to reduce acid splashback in the stomach, and buffers the pH of the stomach acid. It also keeps the guts ticking over regularly, reducing the risk of colic. The horse has evolved as a continuous grazing animal and is not well suited to extended periods of no feed intake, if you are spending hours on a lorry or at a show think of ways to trickle feed fibre to them.
If your horse doesn’t travel well, then consider finding them a travel companion to reduce stress.
Make sure your horse has access to a haynet when travelling. Ideally use a net with small holes (to avoid injury). Horses should be fed little and often.
If travelling a long distance then stop every 3-4 hours and give access to more feed and water. Ideally this would involve taking them off the box and grazing in hand, but if this is not an option then allow them to feed from the floor of the box. This allows the horse to drop its head down so mucus can drain, reducing the risk of travelling pneumonia. This also allows them to rest their legs and to refuel and rehydrate.
Ideally, have some method of monitoring your horse during transportation such as a camera, so that you can keep an eye on how they are getting on as they travel.
After your travels
Travelling (and competing) can increase risk of dehydration, from an increase in workload and a decrease in access to water. Some horses are also fussy with drinking away from home. Feeding a high fibre mash can be a great way of rehydrating and horses tend to love them! Take care not to use as a hay replacer, and only feed if your horse is used to having them.
Some horses become very stressed whilst travelling and this can have a knock on effect on their gastrointestinal system, and cause them to arrive at the show in an agitated or excited state Consider supplementing with a Quick Fix to help support digestive function over this period. Quick Fix is commonly used by top riders to help horses cope better with travelling and the anticipation of competition. If your horse is a stressed traveller try 10ml 24hrs prior to travel, 10mls approximately an hour before loading and the final 10mls as you arrive at the show.
Don’t forget to clean out the trailer when you arrive home. Although not essential, you will be very grateful for this when you next come to use it!