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Transporting Horses – What do You Need to Keep Your Horse Safe?
 By mosquito   •   1st Aug 2010   •   6,849 views   •   2 comments
Sooner or later, most people take their horse somewhere. They go to a show, move to another farm, or take their horse away for a trail ride. That means using a truck or trailer, and that means deciding what their horse needs to travel safely.

Transporting HorsesThere are many different opinions on how to ship a horse safely, but some aspects are facts. Whatever vehicle you use, it needs to be clean, in good repair, and properly licensed and insured. Whoever is driving the truck or trailer combination needs to be experienced and very patient. Your horse should be trained to load sensibly, and be accustomed to being in the transport. You need to plan your journey to make sure you don’t get lost and so that you know the roads and traffic are suitable for horse transport. All of these things are ‘givens’ when you transport your horse.

The debate really comes down to what your horse needs to wear, and what you need to buy. There are plenty of options for horse transport, and horse owners often choose different items depending on the type of journey and the horse itself. Or short journeys, or where a horse travels frequently and can be trusted to load, unload, and travel quietly, many owners will use very little protection for their horse. Likewise, on some very long journeys, where the horse will be stabling overnight and taking off and putting on bandages or boots will be a hassle, many horses will travel wearing very little. Either way, all horse transport comes with some risks, even for very quiet horses, and ultimately the decision is up to you.

First, you need to choose a halter or headcollar. Most shippers prefer nylon halters because they won’t break and leave you with a loose horse anywhere near traffic. Other prefer leather because it will break if the horse gets caught on the trailer or otherwise tangled up. Bits and bridles are never suitable, although for short journeys some will bridle their horse ahead of time and put a halter on over the bridle. Use a trailer tie (a short rope or strap just for tying in the trailer not for leading the horse), or tie up with the lead rope using a quick release knot. Never transport a horse with a chain – even if you don’t use it on your horse’s nose or jaw, it will swing around during travel and can hit and bruise your horse. Likewise, never transport a horse in a chifney bit. Whatever you use, make sure it is clean and in good repair, and that you have a spare halter and lead rope in your transport just in case.

Transporting HorsesNext, you need to think about your horse’s temperature. All horse transport should be well ventilated, with some windows kept open to allow for fresh air on the journey unless the weather is extremely cold. If the weather is hot, open out your transport as much as possible, and stop frequently to offer your horse a drink. Horses will become dehydrated very quickly on journeys and the moving air in the truck or trailer is very drying, and if it’s hot your horse will need even more to drink. If the weather is cool, remember it can get even colder in the trailer if it is properly ventilated. Make sure your horse is properly covered with a light sheet or a wool rug depending on the temperature. A good rule of thumb is to assume that in cool weather, inside a moving trailer will be about 10 degrees (Fahrenheit) colder than when you are standing still. If you are traveling your horse already tacked up, a light blanket over the saddle will help keep the stirrups and leathers from getting caught on anything, and protect your saddle form getting scratched!

Some owners always use head bumpers to protect their horse if it throws its head in the trailer or rears up. In practice, most head bumpers offer very little protection against the force of an impact like that. If your horse is particularly head shy or nervous about travel, then by all means use one, but don’t rely on them to completely prevent head injuries if your horse does head toss or rear. At the other end of the horse, a tail bandage or tail guard will protect your horse's tail from rubbing against the back of the trailer or truck stall.

What about boots and bandages? There are many options to choose from. Specially designed shipping boots are quick and easy to put on, and usually provide protection from above the knee or the hock all the way down over the coronary band. They come in both expensive and cheap versions, and the difference is usually just looks and how much they slip. Shipping boots are great for frequent travel or short journeys, and they can help protect your horse’s legs from knocks, scrapes and bruises.

Travel bandages are more cumbersome to put on and take off, but they do have some advantages over boots. Most of all, they provide some support and prevent ‘stocking up’ so make a good choice for longer journeys. If you bandage well, they will slip less than boots. Apply the bandages from just below the knee or hock down over the top of the hoof and the heel to protect the coronary band, and always use quality cotton or quilted padding underneath. Taping over the ties or Velcro tabs will prevent them coming undone on your journey. Because bandaging doesn’t protect the knees or hocks, adding knee and hock boots is a good idea.

Is it okay to ship your horse without any leg protection? Sure I’ve moved horses internationally or on journeys of several days without bandaging or wrapping their legs at all, and I have never had a horse suffer an injury – although I always used the best professional transporters. The simple truth is, any protection you use on your horse will protect it from minor injuries caused during loading or unloading (such as stepping off the edge of a ramp), and will protect it to some degree if it loses its balance en route.

Fortunately the vast majority of these injuries – even if the horse isn’t protected – are minor, but you can reduce the risk by using some form of bandages or boots. However, the sad truth is that in the event of a major accident, there is very little you can do with equipment to fully protect your horse. The best way to keep your horse safe is to keep your transport in top condition, train your horse properly to travel sensibly, and most of all, drive carefully!
Transporting Horses – What do You Need to Keep Your Horse Safe?
Transporting Horses – What do You Need to Keep Your Horse Safe?
Transporting Horses – What do You Need to Keep Your Horse Safe?
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