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Horse Trailering 101
 By Winniefield Park   •   22nd Jul 2017   •   2,976 views   •   0 comments


One of the most stressful situations for a horse is riding in a trailer, and that in turn, makes things stressful for us. A horse that travels happily makes life much easier. Many donít, and the difficulties start well before the horse gets onboard. In fact, some horses, just on seeing a trailer, will start to stress. For an animal that relies on distance vision and a highly reactive flight response, standing in a dark, small box, as many trailers are, is the exact opposite of what makes them feel safe. Add noise, hard, and sometimes slippery footing, unpredictable movement and poor air, and you have a recipe for turning a horse into a basket case.

So how do you make your horse feel good about being in a trailer? First of all, make sure your trailer is in good shape. Check tire pressure, make sure the hitch is solid and the floor is safe. And, find a way to make that floor as slip-free as possible. This can be tricky, since putting some types of shavings down means there could be dust, which can affect your horseís lungs. Make sure all the lights are working. Your horse might feel a little freaked out if a transport truck appears to be barrelling down on its backside because the driver canít see your brake lights.

If you know your horse is nervous in the trailer, try taking a buddy along, preferably one that doesnít bat an eye at being trailered. Horses are herd animals, and a brave friend can have a good effect. The type of trailer you put your horse on can make a difference too. Some horses are much more comfortable and confident on airy stock trailers. Others feel more secure on slant loads, so they can stand more or less sideways, making it a bit easier to balance during stops and turns.

And speaking of stops and turns, go slowly. I think of driving with my horse on the trailer like hauling a big top-heavy glass full of water. The aim is to drive so no water sloshes over the rim, or in a way that would make the vase fall over. Steady acceleration and deceleration, slow turns, will give a horse time to re-balance itself. And, staying away from really rough roads can help too. Sometimes this just isnít possible, such as when the horse trial is held at the end of a road full of ruts. That just means you have to take your time and not rush. In fact, give yourself lots of time to get anywhere youíre going, so you're not tempted to go quickly.

Whether or not to provide food is a bit of a toss up. Some horses will be happier with snacks to nibble on. Others will ignore food. And, thereís a slight chance a horse could become entangled in a hay net. And, a smaller likelihood, but still possible, is the horse that bolts hay nervously and chokes. This is a hard call.

If your horse appears sensitive to the noise of a trailer ride there are two things you can try. The first are ear plugs, which can be bought at a tack shop. The second is to put a music system in your trailer. There has been some research that suggests that music helps soothe trailered horses. Playing the same music that the horse might hear in itís stable will make things more familiar for the trailered horse. Trailer noise can come from squeaky hinges, banging door panels and anything else attached to your trailer. Grease, a screwdriver, or duct tape can take care of most noise coming from loose parts.

When tying, donít tie too high or tight. And, donít tie low enough that the horse could put a leg over the tie, or get it wrapped around its neck. A trailer tie is safer than using a rope.

And, like those riding in the truck, trailered horses need a break every so often. A break every three or four hours can give tired legs respite. You donít even have to unload the horse, although you might, providing you know it will get back on easily. Offering your horse water is also a good idea. Your driver should eat, drink, and rest too. Driving is hard work, especially over a long haul. So, taking care of your driver will contribute to the safety and comfort of the horse.

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