The beginning of the 2021 show season is upon us, and for most of us, that includes quite a bit of travel time. Whether you are headed down south for the cold winter months, traveling to weekend shows, or even hauling back and forth to a one day competition, there’s no doubt there will be some hours spent on the road with horses in tow. As we all know, horses are not the most reliable when it comes to keeping themselves out of trouble, so it’s our job to plan for every possible scenario they might throw at us while traveling. Here are some tips and tricks for traveling with horses, and how to keep them at their best while on the road.
Before the trip: Make sure buckets, feed bins, stable blankets, boots, etc. are scrubbed, washed, disinfected, or cleaned. Nobody wants to be packing or unpacking feed bins with grain residue, or blankets that have been rolled in pee. No doubt they will get dirty at some point, but arriving with things neat, tidy, and clean always makes you feel more prepared and organized, and it will make you look like you have your stuff together.. even if you don’t feel like it.
Now the hard part: Packing. When it comes to prepping for a trip, there’s two types of packers: those who bring the bare minimum, and those who bring the whole kitchen sink. You know… just in case. When you’re on the road with your horses, over prepared can still be underprepared. I suggest making a checklist of all the miniscule things that you’re sure you have in the trailer somewhere, and make certain they are packed, such as: scissors, gorilla tape (way better than duct tape, trust me), towels, safety pins, hole puncher, etc. Another must have is a recent set of horse shoes in case they pull one on cross country and you can’t find it, you have one handy for the show farrier to put right back on for show jumping the next day.
It’s always a good idea to pack extra water jugs (if you don’t have a tank on your trailer) as well as extra food incase of an unexpected truck or trailer breakdown.
LABEL. EVERYTHING. Seriously. On all sides. You may think you will remember where you packed something, but when you're scrambling last minute to find that waterproof sheet because it wasn’t supposed to rain, but it is now, and you have a ½ mile hand walk to the dressage arena with your rider’s next horse, who is fully tacked… that’s exactly when your brain will completely forget where it is. Also, definitely label all sides of boxes, bags, or anything that has more than one surface. You never know exactly which direction things will end up facing once they’re packed, so it's helpful to know what’s in there regardless of if you're looking at the top or the sides. Lastly, if you’re like me, and aren’t always packing for yourself, it’s easier for your riders and working students to find what they need if you’re not around.
When you're planning where you’re going to pack certain things, think about the order in which you will need to unpack them. Things needed to set up stalls should be easy to reach once you arrive, in order to get the horses off the trailer and settled as soon as possible. If we are going to a weekend show, or even a one day, I try to check the weather ahead of time so I can plan blanketing/layering as needed, and make sure the items that I am most likely going to need are at the top.
Essentials: Make sure you have immediate access to a box with any medications or sedatives you may need in an emergency. It’s smart to make sure there are different sized syringes and needles in there, too. My advice is to keep them in a small cooler to help with temperature control. It’s also a good idea to have oral medications on hand incase IV or IM administration isn’t possible.
On the road: It’s the morning of the trip, and your horses are loaded and ready for their adventure! Whether you are going to a one day show or for a longer period of time, one of the absolute most important things you can do is to make sure your horse stays hydrated. Water is essential for their existence, yes, but making sure they are drinking enough water to keep them at their best can be a challenge. One thing we never leave home without is our Horse Quencher. It’s just a simple flavored water additive that you mix into their bucket, and it turns a boring drink of water into a tasty treat. Especially in the colder months, where you may not have access to warm water while on the road, it is a lifesaver when trying to make sure our horses are drinking enough.
Our horses are turned out 24/7, so when we go to competitions, it definitely puts a change in their schedule. A big tip is to try and keep their routine as close to normal as possible. For us, that means lots of hand walking and grazing, if time allows, but also giving them plenty of time to themselves, since they aren’t usually in a barn being interacted with all day at home. Last, but certainly not least, don’t forget the carrots!!! Safe travels, have fun, and kick on!
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