How To Transport A Horse Safely

The question of how to transport a horse safely has overtime grown to become a more frequent one. This is especially common among horse owners across the United States. This has become necessary because of the intricacies involved in conveying a horse.

As a horse owner, it is necessary for you to consider the details of your movement. Long before you actually embark on the journey. Questions such as, will you be travelling in a commercial van or in your private trailer, are relevant.

Other arrangements for long distance journeys should also cover:

  • Vaccination
  • Deworming
  • General health care
  • Acclimatization

These arrangements buttress the point that long-distance transportation needs adequate preparation. You should make preparations about two months ahead of the journey date.

Common Horse Diseases and Preventions

Tetanus, Influenza and herpes virus are common diseases. They are common to horses and every horse needs to get vaccinated against them. But, this is dependent on the time of the year.

Planning early enough cannot be over over-emphasized. This is because many vaccines will be administered. Vaccines will be administered in two sets of injections, within an interval of three to six weeks. It is important to have the necessary information from a certified veterinary practitioner. A practitioner who operates within your destination location is advisable. Then, you can inquire about the vaccines that you will need for your horse before you need them.

Shipment to regions around the east coast will need vaccines against rabies. They will also need vaccines against Potomac horse fever and botulism. Contrary to widespread suggestions, this is necessary for grown horses and young ones. This is because all horses can be susceptible to botulism.

Boosters are healthy for horses because it enhances a horse’s immune system. This protects them against diseases. But, even if your horse only needs boosters, you still need to do this about 30 days before your travel date.

The body will need about 30 days at least to respond to any vaccination meant for protection. Proper vaccination is necessary to improve your horse’s health. It is important to note that no vaccine guarantees 100% protection. The efficacy of proper vaccination and distressing is due to timing, to a very large extent.

Getting Ready For Transportation

The Trailering Process

There is no dispute that transporting horses causes the animal stress and pain. So, it is important that horse owners decrease identified stressors. This should be done in a bid to help their horses cope better with the shipping procedure. Vaccines should be updated and the horse’s teeth floated if necessary. The hooves should also be trimmed before any shipping engagement.

The trailering process is an important one. Both owners and horses are confronted with this when shipping. It is very important that horse owners get their horses used to this process before travel time.

Getting used to the trailering process is a major way to decrease the stress of a long trip on one’s horse. Do you want to transport your horse without contracting it out? It is always advisable to train your horse ahead of time. This is in order for the animal to get familiar with the trailering process.

Training can start about four to eight weeks ahead of the scheduled travel date. This training period will allow you as the horse owners train the horse on how to travel.

This period of training is crucial. It offers the horse owner ample time to inspect the vehicle to be used for the journey. This also allows the owner time to prepare for unforeseen circumstances. Check and make sure the brakes, tires, safety chains, lights and floorboards are in good shape.

Horse owners may also consider reputable commercial horse transporters if they wish. These transporters can help them transport their horses to their desired destinations. Professional horse van companies move many horses across the country every year.

Their trailers usually come with shock absorbers and good ventilation systems. This is to create a pleasant and comfortable travelling experience for the horses.

There’s a few leg wrapping questions that need answers. This is regardless of whether you’re using a commercial van or personal transport. Protection is of utmost importance if unfavorable situations are to be avoided. Particularly for performance horses.

Relevant Questions for Horse Owners To Consider

The questions range from, is the horse proving difficult to haul? This may be due to pawing, kicking, or scrambling inside the trailer. Does your horse stand solid inside the trailer?

Horses who dislike shipping should be administered protective wrappings around their legs. This will help prevent injuries, which at times may be more serious than imagined. Such injuries can include hind hoof stepping on the bulbs of a front foot.

It is important as a horse owner to make sure that your horse is used to having bandages on its legs. So, whether you choose the leg wraps or boots, it can be attached by Velcro straps. This is to prevent the horse from fighting the strange feeling of leg bandages. They usually fight this while trying to maintain their balance in the trailer.

Not all horse owners know how to bandage a horse, so it is nothing to be worried about if you do not know how. You can seek professional help in this regard to ensure things are done right. This is because not having a bandage on your horse is better than having a bandage wrapped the wrong way. Bandages applied in the incorrect way can result in shortage of circulation to the hoof. This can lead to laminitis. Loose wraps can fall to the horse’s feet and result in the horse falling.

Do you feel your horse needs added protection? Do you feel uncomfortable with keeping bandages on your horse’s feet for the full trip duration? You may consider shipping boots with Velcro.

This is not a guaranteed solution. The horse still needs training to get accustomed to having these boots applied. Even though these boots provide protection and are easy to apply, you still need to train your horse.

Health Certificates Are Crucial

Health certificates are vital documents that can either make or mar your journey. It is always advisable to call the state veterinarian’s office in the destination state. Verify the appropriate health certificates and blood tests required form you.

Horse owners find this beneficial, as it pertains to horses’ infectious anemia. A Coggins test may be required. This may result in travel restrictions due to vesicular stomatitis and other diseases.

This is another thing horse owners need to pay attention to on the day of shipping. Horse owners should make sure that they contact their veterinarians. The vet needs to administer a gallon of a blend of mineral oil and water through a stomach tube transfer. This is important. This is because the normal eating routine is disrupted during the period of commute. The mineral oil and water will help maintain hydration. It will prevent any form of constipation in the horse. The same mineral oil will help to prevent toxins from being sucked up by the horse’s intestinal tract.

Horses should have enough time to rest and recover from long and stressful journeys. Especially before any other assignment or strenuous tasks. Pneumonia and gastrointestinal problems are identified health issues associated with long distance journeys.

Advance planning is always a major key to the eventual success of a long distance commute of horses. Preventive medications, trailering practice, and oiling your horse will help a great deal.

Steps and Procedures to Take To Reduce Travel Stress in Horses

Now, consider the important steps needed to reduce travel stress in horses on a deeper level.

Before the journey, tranquilizing and familiarizing your horse with the process is important. Many horses have been introduced to travel and transportation from a tender age. Even the ones that have never been conveyed in vehicles are willing and ready to be transported. But, certain horse breeds are difficult to handle during transportation. For those that prove difficult, tranquilizers from a certified vet might be required. This will help make the process of loading and safe handling seamless. Medications of this kind should be administered with the utmost care. This is because it can interfere with temperature regulation.

Here are helpful tips that horse owners should consider before starting any journey. These can be used to reduce the stress of the commute.

1) To reduce the stress of the commute, horses need to be trained on how to load, unload, and haul. This exercise will help reduce the level of stress encountered right from the start. It’s a known fact that loading always proves to be a stressful aspects of transporting horses. This is apart from the rigors of the long hours of commute.

2) Horse owners should make sure that their preventive health programs are up to date. Especially as it relates to vaccinations. Bearing in mind that most vaccinations take two to three weeks to start kicking in.

3) Horse owners should ensure that health records are correct. This is for any kind of regulatory requirements. Especially as it concerns traveling interstate or across countries.

4) Horse owners should ensure that the van they intend to use is one that fits their horse’s size and temperament. The van of choice should be one that allows the horse to lower its head. It is important for horse owners to conduct a safety check around the trailer before the journey.

5) Horse owners should ensure the vehicle is clean and safe for their horses to travel in.

6) Are you hiring vans from a commercial transport company? Ensure that those in charge of grooming and other caretakers are vast in horse handling and care.

7) Horse owners should always plan their trips and map out their routes. In a bid to limit the time spent on travel along with any other extremes. This includes bad weather and environmental temperatures.

8) Horse owners should pay attention to the flooring. Ensure the floor is slip proof. Provide absorbent bedding to soak urine and manure that may be produced.

9) Horse owners should make sure that there is enough room for air to flow in and out of the transport vehicle.

10) Bear in mind that prolonged stationary periods can have adverse effects on the animal. So, delays should be avoided as much as possible. Offloading should be considered where such delays can’t be avoided.

11) Horse owners should consider providing a leather halter that fits well.

12) Horse owners should take enough feed and water while on the journey.

13) Horse owners should also consider efficient means of restraints.

14) Upon arriving, horse owners should make provisions for recovery periods. Water may be given to the horses at intervals of four to six hours.

15) Horse owners should ensure that veterinary help is close and available in the case where it is needed

5 Important Factors to Check and Consider

Water and Electrolytes

Usually, a pre-travel administration of intravenous or oral fluids is not advisable. If the horse has a history of dehydration while on long journeys, an exception may apply.

Horse owners need to check and observe the horse before it is transported. Has it been drinking as usual in the days before the journey?

Body Weight

Horse owners should try to weigh their horse before travel. This will establish a baseline for comparing arrival weight recorded at the destination. You can also compare the horse’s weight during the period of recovery.

It is not unusual for a horse to lose weight during the transporting period. Usually, the amount of weight loss varies from 0.45% to 0.55% of its total body weight. This is roughly five to six pounds, in a normal and mature thoroughbred, per hour of transport. This weight loss reflects:

  • Reduced dietary intake during travel
  • Lack of adequate water due to manure and urine excretion
  • Sweating

Now, it is possible to argue that scales vary. So it is advisable that horse owners weigh sacks on the scale. This is to use them as a measure to test the difference upon arrival at the destination.

Respiratory Health and Disease

It is common knowledge in horse transporting that you get “sick horses on, and get sicker horses off.” It is important that horses who may have respiratory disorders are not transported. The exception to this recommendation is transporting the horse to the clinic.

You should not transport horses that have a fever or nasal discharge. The same applies for horses with respiratory diseases. Instead, a professional veterinarian can come to administer medications.


Avoid medications that are not prescribed by professionals at all costs. Especially before the travel period. This is to avoid adverse reactions, which are likely possibilities with therapeutic substances. If a tranquilizer is needed, a professional veterinarian should administer it. This is not always recommended except where it is necessary.

Transport Vehicle (Trailer/Van) Inspection

Horse owners should always ensure the transport vehicle is in proper condition. Always do this before the departure date. Careful inspection should be administered for both human and animal safety. Pay special attention to the trailer or van’s flooring.

Horse owners or handlers must ensure that the following is in proper condition:

  • Vehicle lights
  • Brake system
  • Door operation mechanism, for both opening and closing
  • Ventilation is crossing
  • Trailer floor
  • Loading ramps
  • Emergency brake box
  • Pressure, adjusted according to the manufacturer’s suggested levels
  • Spare tire is accessible
  • The vehicle has a jack as well as tire chocks

A wedge should be placed behind the vehicle wheels to prevent accidents while in motion.

Route Plan

All preparation will be futile if the route plan is not considered. The time of the journey needs to be considered, whether day or night. The weather also has to be taken into consideration to avoid extreme temperatures.

It is advisable to travel at night when there is less traffic and the temperature is more favorable.