Healthy and Safe Travel with Horses
The annual migration south is occurring, as horses from all over the U.S., Canada, South America and parts of Europe arrive in South Carolina and Florida, as well as California. For both horses and their humans, this can be a stressful undertaking. Fortunately, we have travel tips and reminders for your horses when you’re on the road together!
Tigger Montague’s Nutrition Travel Tips:
Biostar’s Alixir EQ is another way to conveniently hydrate your horse. It is a paste that increases hydration and provides Holy Basil, an Ayurvedic plant that helps reduce stress. Horses like it so much they suck on the tube.
Some horses benefit by being fed a very wet mash the night before and the day of shipping.
It is common practice to give Omeprazole before traveling. Some owners start two days or more before shipping, some start the day of travel.
An alternative to Omeprazole is Biostar’s Tri-Gard EQ paste which blends Chinese medicinal mushrooms with Sea Buckthorn, pharmaceutical grade apple pectin, sunflower lecithin, active probiotics, and Reed Sedge Peat to address the entire GI tract, not just the stomach.
It cannot be understated how travel stress affects horses (and their humans too). As cortisol levels rise, so do stomach acids, and brain neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine which can contribute to anxiety.
If you know your horse will stress while traveling, consider adding one of Biostar’s stress paste formulas: In-Zen for the horse that internalizes stress, and Zen-X for the horse that externalizes their stress (pawing, restless, over-reactive).
Horses with Immune Challenges
Bovine colostrum is an ideal immune support for both short term and long-term use. It regulates the thymus gland, the master of the immune system, and provides important immunoglobulins. Bovine colostrum can be helpful in reducing respiratory issues while shipping.
Brook Ledge Horse Transportation’s Road Trip Travel Tips
Andrea Gotwals, a third generation member of the family operation, considers the importance of keeping horses healthy on the road and the aspects of horse care that go into it.
“The care before they get on the truck plays a role into how the horses deal with their trip. Everyone knows they need a coggins, which is required in the United States, and then a 30 day health certificate. So, there is a trust component between us and the client. Once they are with us, we have an option between two different stall sizes. We used to offer three, and the single stall option is not something that we advertise. So there are a lot of farms that have small ponies and they can fit into single stalls, but unless you have three horses who are going to fit into those stalls, we will not utilize it. There’s been a lot of talk about the crosstie stalls versus the box stalls. I understand that the stall-and-a-half is still a cross-type position, but we eliminated it in carriers.
With that single stall option, whoever is in the middle is next to two horses and not just one. They would have two hay bags hitting their head on either side. Yes it’s convenient food on both sides, but it’s a lot more stressful. We’re not going to put 16 or 17-hand horses in a single stall, so we eliminated that option because that’s not the kind of carrier we wanted to be.
In the box stall, they can put their heads down and forage as if they were out in the pasture or in their own barn stall. UC Davis has studies out about the benefits of using the box stalls so that they can move around and really importantly blow any debris out, because that’s going to eliminate what they call shipping fever. So we really encourage that. If a trip is over a certain number of miles, we will not even then consider the stall-and-a-half option — anything that we consider cross-country is box stall only. We care about the horse and how horses arrive — it’s what part of our reputation is based off of, so that’s really important.”
How stress is managed and how the horses that don’t travel well are handled
“Most horses travel well. We will have people that will call and say their horse is not a good traveler and we hear about it from our drivers too, if the horse was kicking the entire time. Horses, even ones that we are told don’t travel well, usually don’t travel well in their own trailer. Once they’re on, especially in the box stall on the truck, It is like being in their own hotel room. I don’t find that there is stress to be managed other than making sure that we are doing the same thing with every horse, making sure that they are comfortable and have everything they need. If horses are stressed, it’s generally when they see other horses getting off the truck, so making sure if we are delivering with a number of horses that it is a quick departure. As soon as we’re moving again, they typically settle right down.
We also offer “carrier’s convenience,” so if you’re traveling from Lexington, Kentucky, or Ocala, Florida, what we’ve done to eliminate a portion of stress when delivering is we have at least 20 trucks in Lexington and in Ocala. When a truck comes into Lexington or Ocala, all the horses get off the truck at once and onto their own local truck to get delivered. So if you have seven horses on the truck and each delivery is a half an hour, you are eliminating hours for the last horse on the truck.”
Taking stops on long trips
“If a barn charters a truck, there are no real stops. It is straight through with two drivers. They will stop every 3-5 hours to check on the horses, refresh water and hay, and let the drivers get a coffee then they’re back on the road.
If there is a trip from New York on a Florida bound truck on Route 95, there’s a little place called Summerton, South Carolina, and we have a farm there. If there is a stop for a horse in the Carolinas that we’re going to be delivering, that horse will go into the barn and our driver will deliver it the next morning.”
Nutrition and water intake
“There’s always a water supply. The phrase goes that ‘you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.’ Our drivers will look at how much water they’re drinking, and they’ll always have water buckets. Our water buckets are on the whole time whether it’s installed in half or the box stall. What is generally monitored is their behavior, so our drivers are all people who know horses. There’s a closed circuit camera that rotates every 10 seconds. So in those periods of hours between stops, they still can still put a set of eyes on every single horse that’s on the truck.”
Providing the best care for horses and clients
“There’s a lot of other good shippers and we all want to do our best. We don’t want to take on ships where we know we’re not going to be able to get the horse in a reasonable amount of time. I think what sets us apart is that we always want to do our best and we want every horse to have the best ride, not just the Triple Crown winners. We ship a lot of other competition horses, but we also ship a number of horses who are not.”
Bastian Schroeder- EquiJet Founder’s Flying Tips
Travel tips for ensuring horses stay healthy away from home
“We have close conversations with owners or sellers and just make sure that we know what constitutions the horses have: if they’re good shippers or nervous shippers, if they need some Gastrogard, or need a little bit of electrolytes. It all just depends on how the horses ship.”
Health monitoring while flying
“Before they come in and when they land, they get their temperatures checked. That’s mandatory and we just evaluate the horses quickly to see if they need to see a vet. If they look like they didn’t take the trip so well, we consult the owners and a veterinarian to give them some fluids.
The vets inspect them and give us an update on if they find anything that’s concerning or needs to be addressed. If their temperature is normal and the horse looks like they traveled well, it’s good news. We then just let everyone know that the horse is coming in and monitor the horse for a couple of days. When they arrive, we keep them separate from the other horses before we introduce them to the general population.”
Traveling efficiently and safely
“We try to minimize travel time with as little layover as possible, and we try to have the grooms fly with the horses because they know them so well. We have all horse people on the team, so we understand horses. We understand the urgency and what it takes to get a horse to the ring to show, to an event, or even if it’s just a pleasure horse. We try to do it all so it’s efficient and quick.”
Keep these travel tips in mind, and happy trails to you! Have a safe and healthy season!