Equine Transport 101: Covering the Basics

It might be relatively easy for your Labrador dog to jump in the backseat of your car--or easier yet if you own a scaled-down version like a Chihuahua--but what about a 1,200 pound horse? Although SUVs are getting bigger each year, you are unlikely to fit a Thoroughbred in your cargo hold, and it probably wouldn't be advisable to try.

Mike Karlin, DVM, an equine surgery resident at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana, is quite accustomed to his patients walking off a trailer ramp to greet him after a long ride. Horses across the country are transported everyday without a problem, but if not done carefully trailering can cause problems. With a few precautions you won't be meeting Karlin in the clinic with an injured horse.

Karlin recommends that horse owners always inspect the trailer to make sure it is safe.

Once you have found a solid trailer, it is imperative that you have quality food and water for your horse at all times during the trip.

"Some horses are finicky about their water intake during transport," Karlin noted.

To alleviate this problem, there are trailers on the market that have a water storage tank so the horse has the exact water it is used to. Even if you can't bring your own, make sure water is frequently available.

Loading the animal is often the most difficult aspect of transport, but practice can make perfect. Don't expect your horse to load on the first try. Once you are in the trailer with the horse make sure there is adequate ventilation and that you would be comfortable riding in a similar environment.

Karlin also advised using shipping wraps, which cover the lower part of the horse's leg for protection.

Research has shown that horses seem to be less stressed when they travel in a rear facing position, likely because they can control their body movement better. However, most trailers are not designed to transport a horse in such a manner.

Karlin recommended stopping to check the horses and to allow them to rest every three hours, or when you stop for gas--whichever comes first.

Although there are already enough items to worry about, interstate travel requires paperwork. Regulations vary from state to state but, in general, a health certificate is required as well as a negative test for equine infectious anemia (also known as Coggins test).--Ashley Mitek, University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine

Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with FREE weekly newsletters from TheHorse.com. Learn More

Free Newsletters

Sign up for the latest in:

From our partners