Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Long Haul

     I recently returned from Canadian Nationals, which many of you know is in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada.  Each way is about a 1,400 mile haul for me so, I thought I'd write about how I like to make such a long haul a success.
     First of all, I make absolutely certain that my truck and trailer are ready for the trip.  The truck always goes in for a lube and oil change and while it's in the shop I have the mechanics thoroughly check out everything else. 
     They check the hoses, clamps, tires, fuses, electrical system - just everything.  If there's anything even questionable I have it replaced.  Are the batteries good, are fluid levels ok?  Are the transmission and radiator coolant systems ready for the mountains and long days?  I check and recheck my tires, making sure they have the proper amount of air for a full trailer and, that the sidewalls and tread are up to my expectations.  I do the same with my trailer tires.  A flat tire in the mountains of Alberta or the middle of the prairie in Saskatchewan is not in my plans!
     Not only do I want the truck and trailer in great shape, I want the horses to arrive in great shape too.  I put the horses on some sort of ulcer medicine before the trip and make sure they're re-shod just before we leave.  I like to increase their feed too before a long trip so that they start out a little on the heavy side.  Not really fat but just a little extra since horses tend to lose weight when hauling.  If I have a poor drinker, I start them on electrolytes in their water before the trip and continue while traveling to encourage them to drink.
     We bed the trailer pretty deep to cushion the ride even more as well as to keep the road heat out.  I put in enough shavings to allow for a clean-out at each night's stop without having to add new but I take care not to bed it so deep that it will bank up as the horses shift during the drive.
     Now, everybody does things a little differently but I like to make sure I can get to my hydraulic jack and basic tools if need be, even when the trailer's stuffed to the gills.  I also like to make sure I can very quickly get to my lead ropes, lunge lines and buckets.  It's a good idea to haul with some basics for your horses too.  Your vet should help you with this but I like to have some Dex (for bug bites or stings, which unfortunately came in very handy this year!) as well as Bute and Banamine and some real basics like leg wraps and bandages.
     We absolutely do not make any unecessary "people stops" on these long hauls.  No lingering lunch stops and no sight-seeing.  The horses come first, not us.  We stop for fuel and a very quick pit-stop which gives the horses a chance to re-position, urinate and rest for a few minutes.  We humans grab a quick snack to eat on the way and take our own quick pit stop but then we're back on the road. 
     I also find that horses don't drink much, if any at all, when stopped so we just get back on the road.  I personally don't haul with water buckets in mangers, I think it's too easy for a horse to get hurt but I do ensure they always have hay in front of them to give them something to do on the long haul.  And, I never unload until we get to our destination.  I just do my best to get to that night's stop as quickly as possible so the horses can have a real rest and maybe a roll and eat and drink in relative peace before the next long day begins.
     Everyone has their own way to haul but I feel very rewarded to have traveled tens of thousands of miles without a flat or a breakdown and to have a show string of horses that still jump in the trailer day after long day and arrive at the shows (and back home again) healthy!  I hope these ideas help you plan your next haul.  Talk to you next week. JD  

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