12 tips for travelling horses safely

  • Travelling goes hand in hand with owning horses, but a bad journey can have dire consequences. Here are 12 ways to make transporting your horse as stress-free as possible…

    1. On long journeys of more than three hours, pull over and untie the horse so that he can lower his head. This helps decreases the risk of pneumonia or shipping fever.

    2. Use appropriate protective travel boots or bandages — a lot of damage can be done by hooves and legs becoming trapped under a partition or kicking at the sides, but make sure your horse is comfortable and confident wearing them.

    3. With the above point in mind, avoid over-clothing your horse. They don’t feel the cold as much as we do and too cool is preferable to too warm.

    4. Keep your horse’s management as normal as possible. For example, using your own hay means there is no sudden change in diet. Offer water at regular intervals, too.

    5. Take out emergency rescue cover that includes horses and store the membership card in your vehicle.

    6. Double check that your horse’s passport is on board as it’s illegal to transport your horse without it.

    7. Ensure that you carry extra hay and water for your horse, plus warm clothes and refreshments for you, just in case.

    8. Work out where veterinary practices are along your route. Mark them on a map and record their contact details.

    9. A long, hot and bumpy ride will takes its toll and tire your horse. Consider leaving earlier and stabling overnight if you can. The quality of driving effects the effort a horse must make to maintain balance, so drive smoothly and at reasonable speeds.

    10. Loading is often the most traumatic part of travelling for horses, so allow plenty of time and don’t rush. Always make sure you stay calm, too, and never get cross. If your horse is young or inexperienced, practice loading into your vehicle before he is due to travel.

    11. Plan frequent rest breaks to offer water and hay. Dehydration can trigger respiratory problems and increase the risk of colic.

    12. Avoid respiratory problems by allowing adequate ventilation and cleaning out the vehicle regularly en route. Avoid dusty hay or bedding.

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    Case study: what to do if your horse colics

    Veterinary services are often required at the site of an accident, even if only to sedate a horse so that it can be rescued safely. Stuart Altoft, of Western Counties Equine Hospital in Devon, is called out to a distressed horse several times every year.

    When an emergency call came in for a horse that suffered colic while travelling home from Aldon Horse Trials, Stuart initially treated the gelding at an M5 service station because the horse’s condition was deteriorating quickly. A subsequent examination at the equine hospital revealed a right dorsal displacement; the large colon had turned and was restricting the release of gas from the horse’s body.

    “Gassy colic is often hard to explain. Competing and travelling is stressful for horses, but this patient was experienced in both and he had never had colic before,” said Stuart, who kept the horse in overnight and a full recovery was made.

    “Getting to us quickly helped to ensure a positive outcome. The worst place for colic to happen is in a lorry because horses can so easily hurt themselves and turn a bad situation into a dangerous one.”

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