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Four Dietary Tips for Healthy Horse TransportBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · March 15, 2016

Even the shortest trip in a horse trailer for the most seasoned equine jet-setter causes some level of stress due to isolation, confinement, noise, vibration, and altered balance. In addition, physical injuries, respiratory diseases, colic, laminitis, enterocolitis, and tying-up pose real concerns for horses and owners during transport.

“Considering the impact of diet prior to and during transport can make the difference between arriving with a healthy or sick horse,” advised Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., equine nutritionist at Kentucky Equine Research (KER).

According to a recent study*, there are four key ways owners can minimize adverse health effects when shipping horses:

  • Avoid dehydration. “Dehydration contributes to the development of respiratory disease and pneumonia when shipping horses and can contribute to the development of colic,” noted Crandell. Ensure your horse can move his head sufficiently when tied inside the trailer, so he can easily reach and drink his water. Reaching the bucket alone is not enough. Accounting for some spillage is also imperative. Some horses may need the driver to stop and offer fresh water during the trip.
  • Steer clear of abrupt changes in diet. Even when transporting horses, major alterations in the type or amount of feed offered are not advised. Such changes combined with alterations in hydration and stress could lead to colic or other forms of gastrointestinal upset and laminitis.
  • Protect your horse’s microbiota. The population of microbes in the horse’s large colon and cecum play a huge role in energy production and overall health. Prebiotics, probiotics, yeast, and a hindgut buffer such as EquiShure may help minimize the deleterious impact of transport on your horse’s microbial population.
  • Plan medication administration. When a stressful situation is approaching, avoid administering medications such as dewormers, anti-inflammatory drugs, and antibiotics immediately prior to transport.

*Padalino, B., E. Hall, S. Raidal, et al. 2015. Health problems and risk factors associated with long haul transport of horses in Australia. Animals (Basel). 5(4):1296-1310.