How to support your horse during travel | BioStar US

How to minimize travel stress on your horse

The great migration has begun, as horses all over the country begin to ship to warmer climates like Florida, South Carolina, southwestern California, Arizona, Oklahoma, and Texas.

Many of us know the awful feeling when your horse gets off the trailer and doesn’t seem “quite right.” We want our horses to arrive hydrated, happy, and minimally stressed.

The more stress our horses feel in transport, the greater the imbalance within the microbiota of the gut. This imbalance can lead to the rise of pathogenic bacteria, and when the friendly gut bacteria no longer dominate, the chance of ulcer formation increases.

How to minimize travel stress on your horse | BioStarUS

Support for the gut

Probiotics are the way to go to support the beneficial microbes and their healthy colonization of the gut.

I recommend starting a live active probiotic supplement one to two days prior to shipping, and continuing through the horse’s arrival at the destination.

If your horse is shipping to a state he or she has never been to, it’s best to continue probiotic supplementation for a few days after arrival.

How to minimize travel stress on your horse | BioStarUS

What to consider when choosing a probiotic for your horse

    • Probiotic supplements that provide live active strains must, by law, provide colony-forming unit (CFU) information on the label. CFUs are measured in the millions or billions of active organisms, which tells you how many active organisms are contained per serving or dose.
    • Probiotic supplements that do not label CFUs do not contain live or active strains. Only active strains can colonize the GI tract. The higher the CFUs, the more viable organisms are available to colonize the GI tract and maintain the balance of microbiota in the gut. A probiotic supplement with 100 billion CFUs provides more efficacy than a probiotic supplement with 50 million CFUs for the same serving size.
      ➜  Read more about evaluating probiotic potency
    • Many Lactobacillus and Bifido strains cannot pass through the stomach without a degree of deterioration due to stomach acid. Look for probiotic supplements that are either enteric-coated or micro-encapsulated to protect the microorganisms as they travel through the gastric area.
    • Spore-based probiotic strains such as Bacillus and the active yeast strains like Saccharomyces can survive the harsh environment of the stomach and do not need micro-encapsulation.


BioStar’s Active Probiotics

BioStar’s probiotic formulas are based on Ayurvedic principles of cooling, warming, and neutral.

    • Cooling: Horses that may be ulcer-sensitive benefit from cooling probiotics.
      Try BioFlora EQ or Hedgerow GI (100 billion CFUs per serving)
    • Warming: Horses that are older, or need weight gain or digestive support benefit from warming probiotic strains.
      Try Bio Yeast (100 billion CFUs per serving)
    • Neutral: Horses that need neither warming nor cooling benefit from neutral probiotic strains.
      Try Symbiota EQ (50 billion CFUs per serving)

Ulcer protection and omeprazole

Omeprazole is by far the most widely used ulcer medication for both therapeutic use and prevention.

Keep in mind, however, what it does: as a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) drug, omeprazole blocks gastric acid secretion by binding to and inhibiting the hydrogen potassium ATPase pump (an enzyme which functions to acidify the stomach). However, horses need gastric acid for the early stages of digestion to help break down food before it enters the small intestine and finally the hindgut.

Alternatives to omeprazole



Neutralizing stomach acid with alfalfa is a more holistic approach to ulcer prevention. Alfalfa provides a high amount of calcium for buffering stomach acid. A flake of alfalfa hay once or twice during travel can help prevent damage to the stomach lining, while still maintaining acid production for digestion.

BioStar’s Tri-Gard paste is a convenient way to support and protect your horse’s stomach and GI tract.

Tri-Gard EQ includes:

Tri-Gard EQ for the ulcer-prone horse | BioStar US

    • Active probiotic Bacillus strains
    • Top-grade pectin (used in hospitals) and sunflower lecithin for mucosal protection and support
    • Traditional Chinese medicine mushrooms (lion’s mane, turkey tail, chaga) to help protect against ulceration.
    • Humic and fulvic acids to support the entire GI tract


The stress component of travel

The stressful effects of travel cannot be overstated. Some horses are particularly sensitive to travel stress, may not eat or drink well on the road, or simply don’t like their equine traveling companion. Once they arrive at the new barn or show facilities, the newness may be an additional stress.

To appreciate how travel stress and digestion are connected, remember that the gut is sometimes called the “second brain,” and that each part of what biologists call the “gut-brain-adrenal axis” is in constant communication with the other parts.

Addressing the stress component of travel is vital to having a healthy, happy horse arrive at the new winter location.

BioStar’s Zen-Max

BioStar’s Zen-Max paste provides multiple ingredients to address and support the gut-brain-adrenal axis:Zen-Max equine calming supplement from BioStar

  • Two important adaptogenic extracts: reishi mushroom and orpine rose
  • Micro-crystalized aloe for protection of the GI tract
  • Amino acid-chelated magnesium for muscle relaxation
  • Bovine milk protein, which provides tryptophan that can be converted to the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain

The importance of hydration

Keeping horses hydrated while traveling is always a priority. Some horses do not drink well when on the road, even with water brought from home.

Horses that continually graze get more water from grass than horses whose only forage is hay. In fact, a hay-fed horse only gets 1/20th the amount of water from hay as a horse on pasture.

Travel stress can affect hydration; when coupled with temperature changes and new surroundings, dehydration can lead to GI tract discomfort.

How to minimize travel stress on your horse | BioStar US

Tips for better hydration

    • Mashes can be an excellent, quick way to increase hydration. Speedi-Beet mashes come in convenient, one-serving bags, and are a great way to help hydrate your horse, particularly if your horse is a fussy drinker when traveling.
    • Purina’s Hydration Hay is another way to hydrate your horse when traveling.
    • BioStar’s Alixir paste is a fast and easy way to help hydrate your horse and increase your horse’s desire to consume more water. Give 1 syringe each day of shipping and traveling. Alixir also provides stress support with holy basil, and gut support with micro-crystalized aloe.
    • The Horse Hydrator (available at BioStar) is a convenient, portable water filter that screws onto the end of a hose to improve water quality and encourage horses to drink.
    • When stopping to fill up for gas, let the horses relax before the trailer moves again. Calmer horses are more likely to eat and drink well during these pit stops.

As for human stress…

After the drive is over, I recommend plenty of chocolate and some Organic India Tulsi Tea!

How to minimize travel stress on your horse | BioStar US


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