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Road Trips

Whether you’re heading out to the winter circuit or just thinking ahead to summer shows, long distance trailering can go a lot smoother if you plan ahead. By taking some simple precautions and preventive measures you can have a safer trip and have your horse in the best shape to show on arrival.

Respiratory infections are one of the most common problems we face in horses that are traveling, but they are rarely thought about before they happen. A horse that develops a respiratory infection either is too sick to compete or performs poorly, making the trip a costly waste of time. Traveling in a trailer is often dusty and windy, which increases the stress placed on the respiratory track. That makes the respiratory track more vulnerable to infection. Fortunately vaccinating your horse for influenza and rhino 2-4 weeks before they travel can reduce these risks. This boosts their immunity before they face the stress of traveling and are exposed to new horses that may be carrying respiratory infections. In addition, allowing your horse to lower his head every 4 hours will allow him to clear his throat of some of the dust that has accumulated.

Colic is another problem that we see in horses that have traveled long distances. Fortunately colic is not nearly as common as respiratory problems. But when it happens it can be your worst nightmare. I think everyone has a recurring dream of having a horse colicing badly on a dark unfamiliar road far from home. The principle reason horses tend to colic on the road is dehydration. When traveling horses tend to want to drink less. In addition, often times horses won’t drink water that tastes different than home. To combat this consider bringing a couple of 5 gallon jugs of water from home and be sure to offer your horse water at those rest stops every 4 hours. Another trick is to start adding Kool-ade or soda pop to your horse’s water a week before traveling. This will hide any unusual taste or smell to the water. Electrolyte powders added to feed or oral pastes may discourage electrolyte imbalances, but do not prevent dehydration if a horse is not drinking. I don’t recommend adding electrolytes to a horse’s water in case he dislikes the taste and doesn’t drink. Bringing a little extra hay and grain from home will also help prevent colic. It allows you gradually mix feed from the show grounds with feed your horse is use to.

The last thing to pack in the horse trailer is a first aid kit. This doesn’t have to be elaborate, but should consist of at least bandages and wound treatment items. A couple rolls of Vet Wrap, leg cottons, roll gauze, non-stick wound dressings, and some antiseptic wound cleanser like Betadine should do. Discuss with your veterinarian whether having some Banamine paste on hand would be a good idea. Remember if you do need to use the Banamine you want to seek veterinary attention as soon as possible. Banamine is a powerful pain reliever and can hide a worsening problem, because it does not treat the dehydration that can cause the colic. To help you find an equine veterinarian in your travels, the American Association of Equine Practitioners has established the Get A DVM phone line. By calling 1-800-GET-A-DVM you will be put in touch with an AAEP member in your area.

Finally, planning ahead may not be easy as you scramble to get on the road. But after all your hard work in training and the expense of preparing for your trip, isn’t a little extra time worth it to make sure that your horse arrives able to compete at his best. Besides if you believe in Murphy’s Law as much as I do, if you take every precaution nothing will go wrong and you and your horse will have a winning road trip.


Dr. John Marion

Castlewood Canyon Equine - Quality Horse veterinarian Services for Franktown CO, Elizabeth, Parker and the surrounding areas.

1115 Castlewood Canyon Road
Franktown, CO 80116
(303) 660-1492

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