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Preparing A Horse For Travel

Updated on May 18, 2013
picture: courtesy Flickr (Creative Commons License)
picture: courtesy Flickr (Creative Commons License) | Source

Things To Consider When Moving A Horse

There are different reasons a horse will need to travel. A vet visit, an important show or race, maybe the horse has been bought and changing its permanent home, these are only a few.

Some of the many things to consider when preparing a horse for travel are: the time of year; weather conditions; the length of the journey; the horse's age and temperament; how many horses are traveling together; and the type of vehicle.

Horse Into Trailer


Getting The Horse Ready For Travel

Protecting The Horse

When a horse travels, it will need some form of leg protection, along with a tail bandage and tail guard. If stable bandages are used they must be fitted with an under-padding of gamgee (surgical dressing) or a similar material. Knee-pads and hock boots may need a layer of cotton wool under the top strap for long trips to give extra protection against rubbing. When leg protectors or traveling boots are used they will serve a dual purpose, both knee-pads and hock boots with bandages. They are often the best choice as they are simple to use, easy to keep in place and do not cause the aggravation which hock boots often cause.

Leg protectors and traveling boots are usually made of rubber or plastic with Velcro or leather fittings; they must fit the horse well to prevent slippage and twisting. Rubbing can also become a problem if a tendon is marked. It's also important not to secure them too tightly, as they can do a lot of harm, especially on long journeys. Modern bandages are equipped with Velcro instead of tape and therefore easier to fit. Bandage tapes can often be fitted too tightly and mark the tendons.

It's sometimes practical to use brushing boots and over-reach boots in front for short journeys when the horse is tacked up, such as for hunting, but this is not recommended for longer journeys because of the lack of protection to the tendons and joints. However, overreach boots can be used in conjunction with bandages or 'travelers' for longer trips to guard against the horse treading on himself. It's a common practice to fit only front boots and knee-pads on racehorses who, like many fit horses will often kick out during travel. They risk injuring themselves if bandages or leg protectors slip. Some horses will do better without any leg protection, such as young and nervous horses who might panic wearing something on their legs. Horse boxes can be equipped with rubber or coconut matting to help protect horses from injury.

For short journeys a tail bandage may be sufficient if the horse travels well but for those who tend to sit on their tail and for long journeys a tail guard should be used as well. In hot weather no rugs are needed, so a roller or surcingle with a wither pad will have to be fitted to attach the tail guard.

If a leather tail guard is used it needs to be supple or it will rub the underside of the dock. A lightweight roller is preferable to a heavy leather or anti-cast type which can cause the horse to sweat. A breastplate will eliminate the need to do the roller up too tightly and still be safe from slipping. A poll guard will be necessary for very long trips or where a horse is prone to throwing up his head. It should always be used for air travel because there is normally little headroom on the aircraft.

How Much Clothing?

The amount and type of clothing will vary depending to the conditions. It can be anything from a single sweat sheet in the summer to a combination of rugs for a long journey in the winter. Traveling rugs specially fitted with a surcingle (full body strap) are ideal and can be used over a sweat sheet or lighter rugs. If a day rug is used and turned back to avoid the horse sweating on his shoulders and neck, care must be taken so that it does not slip back under the roller.

Very often a sweat sheet with a woolen rug on top will be fine. However, on a long journey it is practical to use a sweat sheet then a toweling, cotton or linen sheet on top of which a woolen rug and/or blanket or traveling rug can be added. This allows for the top layers to be added or removed depending on the horse's needs during the trip. It's not difficult to make the right choice from the different Types Of Horse Blankets.

The type of vehicle also plays a part in deciding what rugs to use. For example, trailers and cattle trucks are usually cold in winter and hot in summer, whereas custom-made horse boxes, especially the modern luxury types, often have air-conditioning. The number of horses traveling together also affects the temperature inside the vehicle.

It is very easy for a horse to catch a chill or sweat profusely and lose condition because of inappropriate clothing. This is always serious and can damage a horse's health. If a colt has to travel with fillies or mares he should not be able to touch them. He may fret and sweat so he must be watched carefully to ensure that he does not catch a chill.

Choosing A Horse Blanket


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