The bumpy roads, strange environments and routine changes that come with hauling only mean one thing for horses: STRESS! Whether you are going across the pond—like many of the FEI World Equestrian Games competitors—or just a few hours down the road, travel stress and anxiety plays an enormous role in equine health and performance. Here are four tips before your trip to ‘get their gut in the game’:
1. Hydrate Early and Often
While traveling, it is important to stop every few hours for water breaks. However, horses are often hesitant to drink during this time of stress, so providing both familiar water and buckets from your farm will help your horse be less finicky with drinking.
Dehydration is the #1 threat since it not only affects performance, but also the digestive tract—which can lead to colic. So, it is crucial to ensure traveling horses have access to clean, fresh water 24/7 prior to hitting the road. By fully hydrating your horse before the trip, he will be in better condition both on the trailer and when he arrives at his destination.
There is one problem: horses do not know when they are going to be traveling! To encourage your horse to hydrate efficiently before the trip, you can feed an electrolyte. While utilizing electrolytes, be sure to always have clean, fresh water available! If all goes well, your horse will be drinking more water than normally.
3. Yes Forage, No Grain
Before loading up, see if your horse will graze on any grass that is available at your farm. Grass is more saturated than dry hay and allows for further lubrication in the gut. We suggest that you avoid feeding grain before a long trip, due to the nature of starches, which are often not digested fully under stress and may lead to episodes of colic. It is also important to keep hay in front of your horse at all times to encourage him to keep munching and creating saliva, which buffers stomach acids and helps prevent the development of ulcers during this transition.
4. Prepare a First Aid Kit
Horses get stressed, and things happen. So how can we prepare for those instances? Always have a first aid kit ready in your trailer! Inside the kit, include items such as self-sticking bandages, a thermometer, antiseptic wound cleaner, scissors, clean standing wraps, Zinc Oxide cream and Vitalize® Equine Recovery Gel. The stress of traveling causes horses to have digestive upset, colic and weight loss during or after hauling. Digestive upset not only can cause colic, but it also makes the body vulnerable to harmful pathogens that make our horses sick.
To help give your horse a boost during travel, administer Vitalize Equine Recovery Gel before and after trailering. The proprietary formula contains vitamins, organic minerals, amino acids, anti-oxidants, Amaferm® and MOS—all of which work together to combat digestive upset, illness, stress, and even colic. In fact, Vitalize Recovery Gel has been known to reverse the signs of digestive distress in horses in as little as 20 minutes!
Although traveling can be stressful for our animals, taking preventive measures will help to ensure their well-being and ‘keep their gut in the game!’ By following these four tips before your trip, you can rest assured you will be prepared for your next journey.