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Extended Trailer Trips

By: Galadriel Billington

11:16PM Jun 6, 2004

When hauling a horse over an extended period of time (more than a few hours) a horse may become very uncomfortable. There are some precautions you can take to keep the horse as happy and healthy as possible. Some of these are obvious and common sense. It may simply be useful to have a checklist, so that nothing gets overlooked.

  • Of course, you'll want all the usual (whatever you typically use; any or all of the following):
    • shipping boots,
    • head bumper,
    • haynet,
    • water bucket,
    • extra halter & lead,
    • shovel or pitchfork,
    • cell phone,
    • map, directions,
    • all vehicle/trailer registrations and insurance information,
    • and don't forget the proof of negative Coggins, or the health certificate.
  • An extensive first aid kit is always a good idea, whether trailering just around the corner, or across the continent. The first aid kit should be packed where it can be accessed easily, not under a stack of other supplies.
  • Also, in case of emergency, a retractable utility knife should be on hand at all times. If something should happen, you need to be able to get the horse up & out immediately--no time for fumbling with knots or clips that you can't reach.
  • Trailering in summer heat, I try to make sure that the vents are well open so that air flows through the trailer as we go along. This often creates a breeze that keeps horses cool enough. In case of debris coming in through the vents, a flymask may be a good idea.
  • Trailering in chilly weather, the horses should still have some airflow, but may need a fleece cooler or even a blanket. Closing some of the vents may be a good idea. Closing all of the vents will make a trailer stuffy and make horses very uncomfortable.
  • I usually stop every 2 hours to check on the horses, see if they're drinking, etc. If they're sweaty I'll sponge some cool water onto them. (Remember to bring the sponge and keep it handy.) I'm not comfortable with unloading them at gas station/rest stop type places, so I don't let them out. But I do give them a bit of a break when we stop. Standing in the trailer, shifting around to keep their balance, can be very tiring, so during rest stops they can relax.
  • I leave water where they can easily reach it, and I try to make sure that they're drinking it. Some horses won't drink water that doesn't taste like water from home. On an extended trip, where it's essential that the horse drink a good amount of water throughout, you might want to bring a large water tank. There are water tanks designed for horse people, such as the triangular ones designed to fit in the corner of a trailer dressing room, or the ones designed in the shape of a saddle stand.
  • I have also had some success with flavoring their water with Gatorade powder to make it more appealing. If you do add flavoring to water you must also provide a bucket of clean fresh water as well. Sometimes when the horses won't drink I can feed them a handful of Gatorade powder straight, and it makes them thirsty--it's sweet enough that they think it's a treat, so they eat it happily. You can also rub salt on the horse's gums or tongue (gently!) to try to get him to drink.
  • When we bought our horses and brought them home (Kansas to Georgia), we stayed overnight at a state park with equine facilities. The horses stayed in a corral...we slept in my truck! You can look for state parks along your route, and call/find webpages to see if they have equine facilities, and what you need to do to reserve a paddock or stall.
  • Breaking down or getting a flat is always a concern.
    • Make sure that all maintenance is up to date. Have your truck serviced (oil change, tires checked and rotated, fluids checked, etc). Also have your trailer serviced by a trailer specialist (rotate tires, check brakes, axles, bearings, etc).
    • Make sure that your truck AND trailer spare tires have been checked, and that jacks and tools for changing tires are packed.
    • An "emergency flat repair" can (any auto supply store, or Walmart, etc should carry these) could mean the difference between getting stuck on the side of the highway, or at least making it to the next exit. Make sure you're familiar with the directions before you set out, so you're not trying to figure it out under pressure and stress.
    • A "trailer aid" can make that flat much easier to change. It's a ramp with a notch at the top; drive the trailer up the ramp, set one wheel into the notch, and change the other.
    • If you have to pull off to the side of the highway, you'll need to be visible. Bright orange traffic cones or reflective upright triangles (such as those used by semi trucks) would be good to have on hand.
    • USRider has a roadside towing assistance plan for vehicles pulling horse trailers.
Remember: being prepared and not needing it is always better than not having the right supplies when you DO need them.
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2004 Galadriel Billington. All rights reserved.