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Trailering Your Horse: Five Nutrition TipsBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · April 27, 2017

Show season is upon us, which inevitably means an increase in travel. Whether the destination is local or far away, a few nutritional tips will ensure your horse is ready to travel.

1. Water and electrolytes. The importance of water cannot be overstated. Water is essential for just about every bodily function. Some horses are poor drinkers, while some others don’t like the taste of water that isn’t from home. To help your horse start any trip well hydrated, offer a dose of electrolytes, such as Restore SR from Kentucky Equine Research (KER), the night before a trip. Be sure there is extra water for him to consume overnight so he is hydrated for the trailer ride. Another trick is to flavor water at home with something the horse likes, such as a few drops of peppermint oil. Flavors can mask subtle differences in water’s taste. If the horse is familiar with a particular flavor, he shouldn’t be too picky about drinking water from a different source. For horse owners in Australia, DrinkUp is a proprietary blend of ingredients that encourages horses to drink.

2. Bring your own hay. A dietary survey of managers of elite-level show-jumpers revealed that hay is often an afterthought*. Horses were shipped to a venue and hay was purchased on-site, which was likely completely different from what the horse was used to at home. Few traveled with their own hay. Considering how sensitive horses are to dietary changes, make it a practice to bring at least some hay from home to minimize risk of digestive upset. If you’re heading out on a day trip, pack plenty of hay (and even an extra haynet) to sustain the horse for the duration of the trip.

3. Weigh your horse. Did you know that a horse can drop a considerable amount of weight on the trailer in just a few hours? If your horse is a nervous traveler, it is wise to keep an eye on weight, especially if he sweats considerably. Weigh your horse before you embark, and again when you arrive. This will help you determine if any major changes have occurred, particularly dehydration, and if nutritional or veterinary intervention is necessary.

4. Take a break. If you’re hauling a long distance, stop every 3-4 hours for at least 15-20 minutes. This will give you a chance to offer your horses water, check on the hay supply, and make sure all of the equine passengers are in good health. Be sure to check legs as best you can to ensure no injuries have occurred. In addition, for every 7-8 hours spent in the trailer, it is recommended to stop for at least 45 minutes to remove manure, refill haynets, and encourage drinking. Only unload horses in a safe area away from noises and traffic.

5. Ventilation is key. Fumes from manure and road traffic are irritating to a horse’s respiratory system. Be sure that air can properly circulate through the trailer to prevent stagnation. Proper ventilation will also help remove harmful particles from the trailer’s environment and the buildup of excess heat.

Whether traveling long or short distances, planning for a safe trip is good practice. Pack your own hay, feed and extra water, especially for extended stay trips. Ensure your truck and trailer are in good working order, and open vents and windows to allow air exchange. Remember to stop and check on your equine passengers periodically and make any adjustments to their needs as necessary. Safe travels!

*Pratt-Phillips, S. 2016. Feeding practices and nutrient intakes among elite show jumpers. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science. 43:39-43.