My thoughts are with all the people hauling trailers this time of year. Whether you've headed to Scottsdale over the Rockies or through Oregon's Siskiyous or you're just trailering up the road to a local show it can be tough if you're not prepared (and that also includes being prepared to cry "uncle" and know when enough's enough - there's always another show!). Be safe everyone!
Last fall I shared some of my thoughts on taking care of your truck and trailer and loading and planning for a safe trip. Here are some more of my tips on how to make those long hauls as successful as possible:
My main focus is on getting the horses to where they are going as quickly and safely as possible. All long hauls have some inherent stress but I make every attempt to make the haul as easy on the horses as I can.
I usually don't offer my horses water when I stop for fuel. I find they either don't drink or don't drink enough to make a difference (since a sip or two won't hydrate a horse). Horses in the wild often travel long distances to find water and go for hours without it. Horses that are experienced travelers learn to drink deeply when they arrive at their destination and I find that by trying to get them to drink on the road just wastes precious time that would be better spent gettting them to that night's destination where they can really rest and drink their fill.
I also don't grain my horses when hauling long distances but they can have all the chop, hay, alfalfa pellets or beet pulp they want. When I get to my final destination, I will wait for several hours before giving them grain or I might even wait until the next day's noon feeding. I feed three times a day and I usually feed grain and supplements mid-day and evening. In the morning, they get hay only. (This can also help when you have early classes.)
At overnight stops, I like to plan my arrival and departure so I can rest my horses 8 or 9 hours. I find they are ready to go the next morning and need less time to recuperate from the haul once we get to the show. If your horse is a finicky drinker, add electrolytes to its feed during overnight stops. Electrolytes will encourage them to drink. We also always give the horses some sort of medicine such as a probiotic along the way, to prevent colic.
Something else I should mention: I try to put horses together in the trailer and at nightly stops that get along with each other. And, if you have a horse that bites, put a muzzle on him. I haul a mix of sexes, a stallion, mares and geldings. The stallion goes up front, then geldings and finally the mares. If you have trouble with your stallion, I find that a little Vicks in his nose will help so he can't smell the mares (and I'll sometimes do this a mare too if she tends to act up around a stallion). I always start the mares on Regumate before the haul so that helps them as well.
I don't like to haul in leg wraps. I find that horse's legs really heat up under them - not good if you're on the road for hours. If I must wrap a leg, I will use heavy quilts under the wraps and secure the wrap with duct tape so it won't come undone during the haul. We might use a wrap on a horse that hits itself or its neighbors while hauling. There's just no hard and fast rule here, whatever works. We do use bell boots with some horses to keep them from pulling off shoes, especially if they're built up or have extra support.
I'd like to add that I make sure all my horses have at least one whole day to just rest after we arrive after a long haul. They get some light excerise on the second day and are back to regular work by the third day. And then, they're ready for the show! There's nothing better than a horse that's easy to load, happy to haul and and easy-keeper once you get where you're going. I hope these tips help you eliminate some of the stress of hauling. Talk to you next week! JD