Travel Equipment for Horses
When travelling horses it is advisable that they wear garments designed to protect them - after all, they are precious and delicate cargo!
There are many different styles and brands of travelling wear on the market, but the following checklist gives you the basics of what your horse should be wearing to keep him protected from nose to tail…
Head collar - Leather head collars are preferable for travelling, as they will break under extreme pressure and can be cut, meaning your horse is less likely to become stuck in the event of an accident.
Lead rope - A good quality, strong lead rope should be attached to the ring of the head collar beneath the horse’s chin (unless using two ropes, in which they should be fitted to the rings on each side of the noseband). The rope should, in turn, be tied using a quick-release knot to a piece of baling twine or quik-tie mechanism secured to the trailer’s tie rings – this will allow quick and easy release in the event of an emergency.
Poll Guard – When travelling large horses or those who have a tendency to become unsettled, it may be worth using a poll guard. These padded pieces of foam or leather slot onto the headpiece of the head collar and buffer the vulnerable poll from bumps and bangs on the trailer roof.
A rug suitable for the season and your horse’s condition (clipped etc.) should be fitted – anything from a quilted stable rug, through to a wicking rug, fleece or light cotton summer sheet. This offers extra protection to the horses’ sides from rubbing against the walls of the trailer and, more importantly, prevents a hot horse travelling home from catching a chill. It is essential the rug is a good fit and secure.
Top Tip: An elastic surcingle, even used over cross-surcingles, offers additional security and a place to secure your tail guard while being comfortable.
Before travelling, boots or bandages over gamgee should be fitted to all four legs to help prevent damage from knocks or bands and tread injuries from a companion horse. Whatever method you choose, it is important that the leg is protected from above the knee and / or hock to the coronet band. Once again, it is essential that fit is snug but not too tight – unraveling bandages are an obvious hazard and boots that slip can cause horses to panic and do more damage than good.
Boots vs. bandages
Bandages: Good bandaging is an art form and requires practice. Done well, it not only protects but offers support to the legs – especially useful on long and stressful journeys. Done poorly, however and there are tripping risks from bandages done too loosely while those that are too tight can cause circulatory problems and potentially serious injury. For maximum protection, bandage over gamgee or fybagee (leg-shaped pads are now available that offer protection to knee and hock joints) – if the knee and hock aren’t covered by pad, consider using knee and hock boots; overreach boots can offer extra protection to front feet.
Boots: Modern travelling boots come in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials and most offer protection from knee / hock to coronet band – they are quick and easy to use but don’t always offer the support that bandages can.
Top Tip: If your horse has a tendency to tread on his own feet, or even step under the partition and step on other horses, during transit it may be worth fitting both animals with overreach boots all round while in transit for extra protection – may also help keep shoes on!
During transit, the dock (the bony section at the top of the horse’s tail) is vulnerable to being rubbed as the horse leans on the rear of the trailer for support. This is particularly a problem with large horses that really ‘fill’ the trailer or those who are insecure. For safety, all horses should have some form of tail protection while travelling, either in the form of a bandage or tail guard:
Tail guards vs. bandages
Tail guards: Available in various materials, tail guards are either attached to the surcingle via ties and then wrapped and secured around the tail, or are of the ‘hold up’ that simply wrap and secure around the tail. They tend to offer more protection from impact than bandages, reduce the likelihood of application being too tight and are even available with bags attached that contain the tail to keep it clean. There can, however, be problems with them moving or slipping down the tail.
Tail bandages: Applied correctly provide some protection against rubbing, but not so much against impact. When bandaging tails, it is important to get the pressure right – too loose and you risk the bandage slipping off, too tight and you could cause discomfort and / or circulatory problems. For long journeys tail guards are preferable to tail bandages.
Travelling when tacked up
There are circumstances where it’s safer and more convenient to travel horses tacked up rather than tack up on arrival, especially when going hunting, dealing with horses who get over-excited on arrival, or when travelling single-handed. However, this is only recommended for shorter journeys and it’s essential to ensure the tack is secure and that stirrups and reins are well secured so that they can’t get caught.
1.Leave reins over the horse’s neck, then twist then together underneath the throat until there’s little slack.
2.Slip the throatlash through one rein and fasten buckle to secure.
3.Fit the headcollar over the entire bridle.
1.Fit the saddle as normal, but leave the girth a little looser then if you were about to ride – it needs to hold the saddle in place but be comfortable for the horse on its journey.
2.Make sure stirrups are run up, then pull the ‘spare’ leather beneath the stirrup iron, pass it back underneath and then secure by putting the ‘tail’ of the leather through its keeper.
3.Fit a lightweight rug over the saddle, to prevent it catching during transit.