Summer is here and for many of us that means shipping our horses to and from events. Whether your trip is 10 minutes or 10 hours, hauling can be a stressful experience for horses. During shipping, horses often become dehydrated and begin to lose body condition. In fact, one study found that on average a horse will lose about 0.5% of its body weight per hour of transport. That’s around 6 to 8 pounds of weight loss per hour! This is due to a combination of decreased water intake, decreased feed intake, stress, and sweating. We’ve outlined a few ways to combat these negative effects.
Before the trip:
Make sure your trailer and equipment is in proper working order. Click here to get a checklist. Make sure your horse is up to date on his vaccinations and health records. Most vaccinations take 2 to 3 weeks before their full effect is realized, so plan ahead before taking your horse to a new location. Also, be sure that your horse is in good health and you have proper health certifications, especially if you will be crossing state lines.
During the trip:
Provide your horse with constant access to good quality forage using a hay net. Provide access to water every 3 to 4 hours. Avoid prolonged stationary periods and be sure there is good airflow through the trailer. Much like a car, a closed up trailer can be 20 to 30 degrees warmer than the outside air and horses can easily overheat. If weather is especially warm, you may want to plan your travels during the late night hours when the temperature will be cooler.
Because horses occasionally become ill during transport, we also recommend giving horses a tube of Vitalize® Equine Recovery Gel prior to departure and every 4 to 8 hours thereafter. Vitalize® Equine Recovery Gel has been meticulously formulated to help horses recover from stress and keep them healthy. The Gel contains a comprehensive set of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, anti-oxidants, and omegas for maximum support of the immune system. It also contains Amaferm, a prebiotic scientifically proven to moderate digestive tract pH and maximize digestive health, and MOS, which is proven to sequester harmful pathogens in the gut. Together these ingredients increase the horse’s ability to fight off illness and recover quicker from stress. In fact, several commercial shippers use the Recovery Gel on their trips to make sure their customers’ horses arrive happy and healthy.
After the trip:
Once you’ve arrived at your destination, horses should be removed from the trailer as quickly as possible and be given fresh water and hay. Over the next 3 to 4 days, the horse should be monitored carefully, as sometimes horses don’t immediately begin to show symptoms of shipping fever or other illnesses. If you are traveling to a new location, be sure to locate a nearby vet clinic before you arrive just in case symptoms develop that require professional assistance.