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Ready for the long haul? Preparation makes a difference

By DANIEL H. GROVE, DVM - September 1st, 2016 - Ask the Vet

AskTheVetWe are getting closer to the end of the year, and show season is in full effect. As fall nears, many of our show horses will be traveling great distances to compete to see who is the best of the best. In order for our athletes to be at the top of their game, we need to get them there safe, sound and well.

In July of 2013, UC Davis published a group of articles in the Center for Equine Health Horse Report that covered this topic in great detail. Today, we will go over the highlights from my point of view.

The first thing we need to consider is the mode of transportation. The two most common are trailering and flying. Flying has some advantages. Less travel time means less stress. In my experience, most people showing within our country trailer to the event, so we will focus on that. With trailering, there are some important things to consider to minimize the stress on your horse.

1. First, make sure you have taught the horse to load and unload. This should be practiced extensively prior to putting the animal through the stress of shipping. Being in a trailer is stressful enough for them, but add in the fear from being in an unknown situation and your risk for having a problem is increased.

1. Next, make sure your vaccines are up to date. Chances are you will be traveling with unknown animals or seeing them at your destination. Give their body the best chances possible to fight off infections.

1. Make sure your paperwork is in order. You must meet the requirements for your destination state. Each state requires at least a Coggin’s test and a certificate of veterinary inspection.

1. If you are traveling a long distance, seriously consider using a commercial hauler with an air ride suspension and box stalls. The air ride suspension and freedom for your horse are great for the long hauls!

Having discussed some key points on planning the trip, now let’s focus on what to do on the road.

1. Plan ahead! Know your route and where you plan to stop. According to the UC Davis articles, your horses should not be in the trailer for more than 12 hours at a time. After each 12-hour period, they require rest for at least eight hours. This gives them time to relax and also to clear out their airways. Horses are designed to be able to have their heads low for a good portion of the day.

1. While traveling, plan on stopping every three to six hours. At these stops, offer water to your horses and clean up any waste. This will help to keep them properly hydrated and maintain a cleaner air environment for them to breathe in.

1. If weather is too hot, travel at night. If it is too cool, travel during the day

Well, now that we’ve arrived, what’s next? Plan on having a day or two at your destination for your horse to settle in and relax from the trip. From the bouncing down the highway, the legs can be sore and/or stiff. Giving them some time to recuperate can help them to be ready to perform at their best (and maybe good for you too!). Monitor their temperature a few times daily to ensure you are aware of any potential respiratory infections brewing. Offer your horses fresh clean water and their normal diet. After all of that, go out and have fun at your event!
If you would like to read the articles from UC Davis here is a link: http://bit.ly/609A_UCD

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