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Troxel Safety Resource Center
Ask the Vet, Sallie S. Hyman VMD, DACVIM: Trailering 101
It seems like many horses today should have their own frequent mileage cards, given the amount of traveling they do. We take them to lessons, competitions, trail rides,and sometimes even on vacation. All of that trailering can take its toll on them, however. So how do we keep our equine companions happy and healthy during our travels?
There are a plethora of studies out there documenting the effects of long distance travel on the equine immune, respiratory, and musculoskeletal systems.
Equine Respiratory Disease and Trailering:
In fact, it takes just 6-8 hours for significant numbers of bacteria to accumulate in the lungs with the head tied. This, combined with impaired immune function, can result in bacterial pleuroneumonia (infection of the lungs and lung cavity), also known as Shipping Fever. Symptoms of shipping fever include: loss of appetite; fever (usually higher than 102° F); increased respiratory rate; shallow breathing (due to pain in the chest cavity); cough (which they may try to suppress due to pain); and sometimes nasal discharge. Shipping fever is a very serious condition and can be fatal, or can lead to severe or fatal complications such as colic and laminitis.
Musculoskeletal Systems and Trailering:
Dehydration and Weight Loss:
How to Travel Safely:
We need to be able to travel with our horses, but we also need to do it in a manner that keeps them as comfortable and healthy as possible.
Before you go:
Take your horses vital signs before you get going so you will know what is normal for him. Don't exercise excessively the day before travel. We know that maximal exercise can decrease immune function, so it is best not to start out already suppressed and tired, to boot. Give your horse plenty of hay the night before and decrease his grain meal if he gets one. Encourage him to drink plenty of water. Use water flavoring, like some of the horse teas, Gatorade or anything that gets your horse to drink. Make sure that your trailer has good ventilation. This doesn't mean letting your horse stick his head out of the window like a dog (which I have seen!), but having proper venting and window screens to let in the fresh air and to keep out any road debris. IF you don't have window screens consider having your horse wear a fly mask when traveling to help protect his eyes. If you are driving in hot weather, try to drive at night when the temperatures won't be so high. Also, two mats on the floor will keep your horse from being so near to the heat from the floor. A safety thermometer in the trailer will let you see what temperature your horse is contending with in the trailer. High temperatures won't necessarily make you scrap your plans to travel, but it will let you know whether or not you should take more water breaks. And, finally, make sure your truck and trailer are in good running order before you ever hit the road!
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