Riding in Comfort: 10 Tips to Haul Your Horse First Class

Ten things to do to make sure your horse rides in comfort and arrives safely at his destination.

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Horse in trailerWhoa! Wait a minute. Too often we’re in such a hurry to head down the road that we don’t stop to think how a trailering trip can cause both stress and injury to our horses if we aren’t careful. Whether you’re off for a long haul or just a trip down the road, here are 10 considerations that will help ensure your horse arrives safe and serene.

1. Skip the saggy shipping boots. Leg protection can prevent bumps and cuts if your horse stumbles or scrambles in transit. But droopy shipping boots that end up crumpled around your horse’s fetlocks are useless and they could end up tripping your horse. Choose sturdy boots with secure, adjustable straps that allow a customized fit or opt for quilts and standing wraps.

2. Bring on the bell boots. If your shipping boots don’t quite cover your horse’s sensitive heels, add bell boots to his traveling ensemble. They’re an inexpensive investment and can shield your horse from a painful, costly wound if he accidentally steps on himself.

3. Consider a cranium cushion. If your horse is naturally high-headed or if he’s acquired the habit of raising his head while loading, you can protect him from a whack on the poll with a head bumper. The cap fits over his ears and slips onto his shipping halter.

4. To blanket or not to blanket; that is the question. Heat and humidity tend to build up inside an enclosed trailer, even when it’s chilly outside. The more horses on board, the warmer it can get. Consider the number of equine passengers, the ventilation of the trailer and the length of your journey before deciding to blanket your horse during transit. He shouldn’t get the shivers. But he shouldn’t feel like a steamed clam, either.

5. Should you saddle for convenience? Travel the southwest and it’s not unusual to see a stock trailer with a string of cowponies inside, already saddled so they can hop out and go right to work. That might look like a good idea if you and your friends are hyper-excited about your upcoming trail ride. But remember that the stirrups on a western saddle can get hung up on the walls and dividers of a straight or slant-load trailer, spooking your horse and impeding the unloading process. Plus, your horse will be tacked up for hours once you get where you’re going. Should he have to wear his saddle on the way there, too?

6. Add a scoop of shavings. Sprinkling several inches of stall bedding on the floor of your trailer softens the ride for your horse and it’s an additional barrier between the heat of the road. Shavings also preserve your trailer mats and aid in clean up.

7. Don’t forget the beverages. Pack an unopened gallon bottle of water for each horse you’re hauling, plus a clean bucket. Stow them in the tack compartment of your trailer. It’s a safety measure in case you get stuck somewhere or if there isn’t any water at your destination.

8. Pack a “just in case” kit. Put together a simple first aid kit for your horse and keep it on board your trailer at all times. Consider commonsense items like simple bandages and a roll of Vetrap.

9. Make some snap decisions. Use ties with quick-release snaps to tether your horse in the trailer. That way you don’t have to fumble to undo a knot or fiddle with a bull snap in an emergency. Select trailer ties that are long enough to permit your horse to move his head and neck around to reach his food and so that he doesn’t feel trapped. Yet they must be short enough to keep him from annoying his companion or getting his head over the divider.

10. Cruise in control. There’s no room for pilot error when hauling horses. Remember that you’re hauling live cargo, not a motor boat or an RV. Each time you brake or turn the horses in the back have to shift their weight. Zipping around turns and stopping short increase the stress on the horses in your care. Be a conscientious driver, provide a smooth trip, and your horse will really think he’s traveling in style.

Further Reading
Safe Trailering Tips
Trailering Checklist

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Cindy Hale
Cindy Hale’s life with horses has been filled with variety. As a child she rode western and learned to barrel race. Then she worked as a groom for a show barn, and was taught to harness and drive Welsh ponies. But once she’d taken her first lessons aboard American Saddlebreds she was hooked on English riding. Hunters and hunt seat equitation came next, and she spent decades competing in those divisions on the West Coast. Always seeking to improve her horsemanship, she rode in clinics conducted by world-class riders like George Morris, Kathy Kusner and Anne Kursinski. During that time, her family began raising Thoroughbred and warmblood sport horses, and Cindy experienced the thrills and challenges of training and showing the homebred greenies. Now retired from active competition, she’s a popular judge at local and county-rated open and hunter/jumper shows. She rides recreationally both English and western. Her Paint gelding, Wally, lives at home with her and her non-horsey husband, Ron.

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