As a yearling to two year old, I started getting on and off the trailer occasionally at home. During these initial lessons, we didn’t go anywhere and always did this when there was plenty of time to work on trailering. Later if there was room on the trailer, I would get to ride to lessons or trail rides the other horses were going to so I could learn all about going places. Finally when I was around 4-5 years old I began getting on the trailer and going to horse shows where I had to show. This way I was only learning one new thing at a time. I had already learned to trailer, so looking good at the horse show was the only thing I had to worry about.
Recently I have begun trailering long distances. Culpeper is the longest trip so far of about 14 hours. For these longer trips my mom, Dr. Lacher, takes some special precautions to make sure we arrive in tip-top shape.
The best offense is a good defense. We are kept up to date on all our vaccines but never within 14 days of a horse show. This gives our immune system time to respond to vaccines before the horse show. Mom also makes sure our nutrition is optimum. We eat good quality grain and hay and are kept at a good weight. She may even let us get a little fat before these long trips since we tend to lose a little bit of weight on the trip. All of us go on a fitness regimen to make sure we are fit enough for the horse show since fatigue can make the trailer ride and horse show even harder on our systems.
The week before leaving on long trips the trailer is checked thoroughly. Air pressure in the tires on the truck and trailer are checked as are lug nuts. Mom is very fanatic about this step since low air pressure contributes to blow outs and she HATES changing horse trailer tires on the side of the interstate. We also had a tire come off the horse trailer once because the lug nuts had loosened so she is always checking the lug nuts. Before long trips the bedding in the trailer is stripped and new bedding placed back in. During this process the floor of the trailer is checked to be sure there are no problems. I like when this is done with enough time to get the truck and/or trailer in to the shop to fix anything before we leave. We use the truck and trailer regularly so it doesn’t often go for a test drive before these trips but if you don’t use yours often, I would recommend a small drive around the block to make sure all the lights, brakes, etc. are working.
The two feedings before our trip we will get extra water added to our regular grain and a bit of added alfalfa to make sure we are well hydrated for the trip. The last feeding before we leave is usually only half our grain to make sure we don’t get upset stomachs on the trip. The trailer is loaded with alfalfa just before we get on. We normally eat alfalfa and recommend that you load the trailer with your horse’s usual hay. A small amount (1/4 flake) of alfalfa added to your regular hay will help stimulate thirst and keep the G.I. tract moving.
There are two schools of leg wrap thought: do it and don’t do it. I don’t generally wear leg wraps, especially in the summer, because it is so hot on the trailer anyway and this significantly reduces my ability to cool off with the large leg blood vessels. I don’t recommend using leg wraps if your horse is not used to wearing them. Most of us spend the first few hours stomping our feet trying to figure out what these things are and that’s the last thing we need to be doing on a long drive. If your horse is used to leg wraps, is very active in the trailer and the weather is reasonable, leg wraps are a wise idea since they prevent nicks, cuts and scrapes. They can also be extremely beneficial if there is an accident since they protect our delicate and important legs.
Once on the road we go with a “drive til you get there’ philosophy. We only stop when we absolutely have to and food, fuel and restrooms are taken care of in that one stop. I find the trailer gets uncomfortably warm when we aren’t moving. At stops, we get more hay if we have eaten all we have and we get offered water. I don’t like the taste of truck stop water so I don’t drink much but I drink well once we arrive. We are left loose in our slots on the trailer. I can’t turn around but it does let me put my head down which helps clear my lungs of any debris. Mom is always quoting studies and claims there is a good one on the benefits of not tying your horse’s head up when trailering. (Aust Vet J. 1996 Feb;73(2):45-9.Effects of posture and accumulated airway secretions on tracheal mucociliary transport in the horse.Raidal SL, Love DN, Bailey GD.) She does tie my big brother because otherwise he is a general pest but only ties us up when there is a need.
Once we arrive at our destination, we get off the trailer once our stalls are bedded and fresh water added. Then we horses get to watch while the trailer is unloaded and cleaned. Once the trailer is parked and unhooked we get to go for a short walk to stretch our legs. Then we get a good night’s sleep before going to work the next day.
I find this system lets me look my best for my adoring fans at the horse show and reduces my risk of catching anything from my new friends. Great places to look for further help include: www.USRider.org and equipass.nmca.com. Our Doctors and staff are also ready to help you with any of your trailering questions or concerns.
A special Thank You! to Tony for letting me blog this week