It’s time for Dazzle & I to head to our home farm in Georgia for the summer, and with this we have an 8-hour trailer ride. As I’m preparing her for the trip, I realize how much we can do for our horses’ wellness by investing in a healthy, comfortable trailer experience. Over the past few years, I’ve come to follow a sort of check list to ensure my horses’ optimal wellness during and after trailering. I’m so excited to talk about my top 5 practices in promoting a well horse on a long road trip!
There is no doubt that a road trip generates stress in a horse’s system. Whether he expresses it outwardly or not, the stress undergone during trailering and introducing a new environment can temporarily weaken a horse’s immune system. The least we can do is give the horse a fighting chance against bacteria and fungus present on their skin. A good, sudsy scrub a day or two before the trip (giving enough time for protective oils to build back up on the skin and coat) can help prevent crud and sticky sweat from irritating the horse during travel.
Keeping horses hydrated throughout a trailer ride can be difficult, as they aren’t always interested in water on the trailer or at a new place. Yet, because it will keep a horse’s gastrointestinal tract lubricated, muscles’ relaxed, and immune system functioning, We need to address hydration. I like to use Hydraboost before, during, and after the trip to give the horse a mineral boost and to encourage sipping water. A cheaper yet still effective electrolyte source comes out of the Kroger baking section. ‘Lite Salt’ is comprised of Sodium Chloride and Potassium Chloride and works well to encourage drinking. Sweetening water or heavy soaking small portions of alfalfa pellets and beet pulp can also help to get fluid into a horse on the trailer.
With the emotional stress of a trailer ride, a new place, and the muscle tension a horse holds to remain upright on the trip, gastrointestinal stress becomes prevalent. So what can we do? Support the gut! Two days prior to trailering, I like to start a preventative dose of Ulcergard so that the horse finishes the tube the day after the trip. This will help to settle the stomach and prevent gastric ulcers. I also like to dose a horse in the same time frame with a probiotic supplement. Hallway’s ProEntera does the job best. This will help the flora in the hind gut thrive, keeping the horse’s nutrient absorption rates up, comfort level high, and immune system supported.
Good Circulation is key to a healthy horse. Because step one for any pathological disease is loss of circulation, our goal should always be to optimize blood flow. Moreover, sore muscles, emotional stress, and painful joints are a linked to poor circulation. When horses stand immobile in a trailer having to clinch their muscles for balance, they often deal with lower circulatory movement. We can combat this though!
Before trailering long distances, my horses always get Massaged and Kinesiology taped to help loosen muscles, break-up facia, and increase blood flow. The Kinesiology tape will actively work wherever it’s place throughout the road trip, helping to keep muscles loose and bring down inflammation.
If it’s cool enough, Back on Track sheets and wraps also do an AMAZING job in relaxing muscles and increasing circulation. The product simply has ceramic fibers infused in the fabric so that heat radiates back on to the horse. It is perfect to stimulate blood flow and melt fascia. Magnetic apparel such as crown pieces and bell boots are also a great option. The iron in the blood is attracted to magnets, increasing circulation.
Keeping an active mouth and digestive tract during a road trip will help the gastrointestinal tract and the parasympathetic nervous system function well. Where some horses get picky in a trailer, I like to ensure that good quality, palatable hay is abundant for the trip. Keeping dust down is so important for the horse’s respiratory system, as they have to breathe in front of the hay for the whole ride.
While bags are easier to fill, a horse either has to reach to the top of the bag to pull hay, which is no good for keeping topline muscles relaxed, or he has to reach in the hole and breathe in hay while he eats.