Whether you’re taking your horse on a quick trip down the road, or driving all day interstate, there are some key things you should do to ensure your horse’s safety on the road.
Being transported is an unnatural experience for any horse. When you think about it, being put into an enclosed space, and carried down the road by a vehicle, goes completely against their instincts as prey animals. It requires a bond of trust between you and your horse. If your horse trusts you enough to load and be transported even short distances, you owe it to them to make the journey as pleasant and safe as possible.
I have seen many an injury that could have been prevented with adequate forward planning and some simple precautions. This is by no means an exhaustive list but I hope it helps at least one person prevent something bad happening to their horse.
Pre-journey checks on your truck or trailer
Recent research has shown that the highest incidence of fatalities and injuries to horses during transport are due to rotten floors and worn/burst tyres.
Many owners keep their trucks and trailers sparkling clean and hosed out regularly but often don’t lift up the rubber matting and check the floor. Exposure to urine and water over time can cause the wooden floor boards to rot, or in newer versions, metal plates to rust meaning the weight bearing capacity is reduced. Checking this regularly is essential. The last thing you want is to have your precious cargo falling through on the motorway!
Check that the tyres are not worn or damaged to reduce the chance of a blowout. Check all lights especially brake lights and rear indicators. Check the hitch and tow bar. It’s really important that the break away cable is not looped around the tow bar but attached somewhere separate on the car. This ensures that, if the tow bar fails, the trailer will still stop.
Travel boots or bandages
This eventer slipped backing out of the float and caught her knee on the edge of the ramp. Thankfully, the wound just missed the joint and is now healing well.
Accidents and injuries like this can be minimised by making sure your horse is wearing travel boots or bandages on all legs. Make sure the boots fit well and the horse can move freely when wearing them. Some horses dislike the boots, so stable bandages might be preferable to protect the legs. Over reach boots can also be useful.
Stopping every few hours to let your horse’s head down and offer some water will go a long way to minimising any long-term effects of the journey. Lowering their head allows the airways to clear and reduces the chance of your horse getting travel sickness, a respiratory infection. Adequate water intake is going to reduce the risk of impaction colic caused by stress and dehydration. If you have time and a safe, enclosed place to park, getting the horse off for a grass pick mid journey is a good idea.
Finally, it goes without saying – drive slow, smooth and take it easy on the corners! Your horse is relying on you.
Safe travelling everyone!