Travelling horses is something that most of us have to do from time to time. For most it is a stress free, uneventful experience, but it is a good idea to think about some of the common challenges before setting off to ensure it remains a positive experience for both you and your horse/s.
it is advisable to plan your route prior to setting off, taking into consideration the type of vehicle you are driving and any restrictions in the form of low bridges or barrow roads to avoid on your journey. It is a good idea to stick to main roads for as much of the journey as possible; this will make the journey much smoother for your equine cargo, and avoid unnecessarily upsetting them before arriving at your destination.
Plan your route
When travelling for long periods of time, you will also need to factor in appropriate resting places – somewhere to unload and load safely is a must. Please refer to Travelling Welfare for more information.
Before making a journey it is important to make checks on the safety of the vehicle. This includes the lights, indicators, water levels, oil levels, the ramp, floor safety.
It is important that you have your horse dressed appropriately, i.e. a rug suitable for the temperature. It is also important that you have sufficient equipment onboard your vehicle to deal with any likely events. Hay and water is important in the event of a delay and will help you to keep them calmer in the event of a long delay. Spare ropes and headcollars in case of breakage, additional rugs in case of a change in weather conditions, food and water for you and your passengers!
Please visit Travelling Equipment for information about protecting your horse in transit.
During a journey
Keep an eye and an ear out for your horses while travelling. Unsettled horses whilst stationary will more often than not calm down and become still during transit. If this applies to your horse/s bear this in mind whilst driving and keep slow movement in the run up to stationary traffic and traffic control points.
Horses that become unsettled during transit should be observed. There is normally a good reason, including: poor ventilation and horses becoming too hot, insects, need of water and erratic driving.
For horses travelling on long journeys, one of the biggest concerns is Shipping or Transit Fever. This is generally caused by the practice of tying horses up by their headcollars so that they are stuck in an unnatural head-held-high posture. Normally, they would put their head down, but while travelling they are prevented from doing so. This will affect the clearance of mucus from the airways, as well as causing bacteria to descend towards the lung. Together, this increases the risk of pneumonia and chest infection, and affects about 6% of horses if they are transported for more than 8-12hr. Regular rest stops are important to allow the horse to rest and resume a more natural head position.