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Feeding Horses Before TravelBy Dr. Clarissa Brown-Douglas · September 7, 2011

Amid all the packing and preparation to go on a trip with your horse, don’t forget one important thing: feeding your horse properly. Poor preparation for feeding before travel can lead to poor performance on arrival, dehydration, stress, poor appetite, colic, ill health, and possibly gastric ulcers. The most important points for horse owners to focus on are forage intake, hydration, electrolytes, maintenance of a healthy gastrointestinal tract, and avoiding changes in feed, both during travel and at the event.

Hydration is a major concern when preparing horses for travel. Increasing the animal’s forage intake several days before the journey will help to ensure the animal remains hydrated, as fibre acts as a reservoir, storing water and electrolytes in the hindgut. For every kilogram (2.2 pounds) of forage eaten, a horse will drink approximately 4 litres (1.05 gallons) of water. Forage also helps the gastrointestinal tract to maintain normal digestive function.

Travel can be stressful, causing inappetence in some horse. Consider adding a B vitamin supplement to the horse’s diet before travel to help boost appetite. An antioxidant will also help support immunity and electrolytes to help improve hydration status.

Finally, plan for your horse’s nutrition throughout the duration of your trip. Pack the right amount of feed and supplements (measuring the necessary number of meals into individual bags can be helpful). If you can’t take the horse’s usual feed with you (for example, for international travel), be sure to call ahead to find out what type of feed will be available at your destination and gradually transition your horse to that, or similar, feed over several weeks prior to departure.

A little pre-planning can help your travelling horse to remain healthy and well-fed.