Helpful Hints for Travelling Horses
Our Top Tips when transporting your horses
This report summarizes a number of independent studies about the responses of horses that were transported for various distances in a range of climatic conditions.
Stress. Transported horses can theoretically be stressed by:
– separation from herd-mates
– close proximity to aggressive horses
– unknown surroundings, unfamiliar noises
– restraint of normal movement
– maintenance of abnormal posture
– changes in temperature, feed and water deprivation
– and exposure to pathogens, dust, and blowing debris
Physical indications of stress include elevated heart rate, increased cortisol production, and dehydration.
Injury. Physical injuries to transported horses can be caused by:
– vehicle collisions
– sudden stops, falls, loss of balance
– collapse due to fatigue
– and attacks by aggressive animals
While horses may sustain injuries during transport, studies have shown that the majority of severe injuries observed among horses transported for slaughter were incurred before the horses were loaded onto the transport vehicle.
It is suggested that competition or performance not be attempted less than 48 hours after extended transport in order for blood levels of hormones and chemicals to normalize.
Trips of up to 90km had no significant effect on blood profiles or the ability to exercise, while trips of 900km or more should ideally be followed by several days of rest before horses are asked for strenuous exercise efforts.
In one study, healthy horses showed significant signs of fatigue (closing eyes, lowered heads, less social interaction, decreased response to stimuli) after 24 hours of travel.
During cool weather, horses can survive for several days without water and can redehydrate fairly quickly with few adverse effects.
In hot, humid weather, however, dehydration can be quite rapid. When the outside temperature averaged 27.3º C. , horses lost more than twice as much weight from dehydration than when outside temperature averaged 21.5 º C. Dehydration can be moderated by offering water periodically during transport.
Dehydrated horses may drink to excess, resulting in colic if they are given unlimited access to water.
Tying horses with their heads above a solid barrier such as a saddle compartment limits their ability to lower their heads at will, possibly adding to fatigue and compromising normal drainage within nasal passages.
Slant-load trailers tend to have somewhat longer stalls, giving horses more room to move around, and their placement of windows alleviates the reluctance of some horses to enter dark or poorly lit spaces.
Although horses usually have little trouble maintaining their footing even when road surfaces are extremely rough, trailer suspension has an effect on fatigue during long trips.
When groups of horses are transported in large trucks, common sense would seem to indicate they would ride most safely when they are packed closely together and able to lean on each other. In fact, moderate density leads to fewer falls and injuries.
Horses that are closely packed can’t usually move their feet without stepping on each other, and they are sometimes repeatedly injured by an aggressive horse from which they can’t escape. Other horses may be injured in the scuffle and flight attempts. A horse that does fall down can’t usually rise because the other horses shift into the empty space, trampling the fallen animal. Also, close proximity to other horses increases heat stress in hot weather.
Our Top horse travel tips
Use of Hay or Haylage nets.
Hay or haylage nets should be given throughout the journey
Electrolytes are given to replace lost salts from sweating
These may also be offered along with soaked, very wet beet pulp
Vitamins C & E to help reduce the chance of shipping fever
Summary of “A review of recent research on the Transportation of horses”
TH Friend, Texas A & M University, College Station, TX 77843