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Following a bit of a break after Olympia, our next big competitive appointment is the FEI World Cup qualifier in Amsterdam on 27 January. Nip Tuck (Barney) is flying the flag and headed out on his travels yesterday, with the competition running tomorrow and Saturday. Preparing for a major show like this is always a big deal, but competing in the middle of January obviously brings a different set of concerns to heading off to a similar event in the middle of summer.

As our international travelling groom, it’s Alan’s (Davies) job to transport and care for the horses wherever in the world they need to go. He has a vast amount of experience when it comes to travelling horses, be that flying to Florida in the baking heat or driving to Oslo in the depths of Norwegian winter, he has done and seen it all. As part of his preparations for going away, Alan will pack all of the tack, rugs, bandages, boots, feed and a variety of other paraphernalia into two or three massive and incredibly well-travelled trunks. He has to envisage every eventuality in terms of what he will need and so “hand luggage only” really does not feature in his approach to packing!

Barney loaded and ready to head to Doha last year

Transporting horses, whether nationally or to Europe in the winter, normally means facing a variety of weather conditions and the aim is obviously to keep the horse or horses as comfortable and relaxed as possible, regardless of what is going on outside the lorry window. Alan reckons there are five main things to be aware of when travelling horses at this time of year:

Always carry extra water in containers inside the lorry itself. Water tanks built into the body of the lorry may freeze leaving you literally high and dry when it comes to giving your horse a drink.

Take a big bag of carrots and apples to give on the way and when you arrive. These can be used to make a kind of watery carrot and apple soup if needed for horses that are fussy drinkers when travelling.

Give electrolytes in feed, pastes or drench if necessary. We widely associate the use of electrolytes with summer exercise when horses have or are likely to sweat a lot, but they are very useful in encouraging the horse to drink and hydrate itself in the winter too, even if it hasn’t sweated.

Stop regularly to check the air temperature in the horse area of the lorry and obviously to check the horse’s body temperature too. Alan will keep a selection of rugs to hand, particularly when travelling long distances. For instance, if he’s heading to France or beyond, it generally gets very warm when parked up on the train, whereas it can suddenly be very cold when you disembark and hit motorway again at the other side. Be prepared to alter their travel gear as needed.

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Be ready for anything! Alan will make sure there’s a big bag of rock salt in the lorry in case the unloading area is slippery or icy when he arrives. Of course you would hope that this wouldn’t be the case and that there would be somewhere safe to unload but best not to assume these things. An army friend of mine used to say “assumption is the mother of all cock-ups” which is not far from the truth I think when it comes to preparation!

For each individual horse there are key things to think of that will be specific to them. A young horse may find a long journey more tiring than seasoned travellers and so this needs to be factored in to your travel plans as necessary. Alan is brilliant when it comes to travelling horses because he looks after all of the details of their care, and is wholly fixed on making the journey as easy and stress-free as possible for them. This is surely the most important thing for all of us — to have them arriving as happy and healthy as when they went up the ramp at home, regardless of whether you are heading 30 minutes down the road or hundreds of miles to foreign climes. Happy travels!

Fizz