Colic-Free Travel

Horse-showing stress can test your horse’s colic tolerance. Be prepared with these tips.

Horse-showing stress can test your horse’s colic tolerance. Be prepared with these tips.

Horse trailer
Colic can still be a risk when you’re hauling your horse. Journal photo.

From AQHA Corporate Partner USRider

Whether you’re traveling to horse shows, trail rides, camping events, rodeos, or other fun venues, you have to think and plan ahead when hauling horses.

The stress and anxiety that your horse experiences simply by stepping on board your trailer can be greater than you think. It’s a perfect environment to ramp up the potential colic risk for your horse.

Stress can change your horse’s eating, drinking and eliminating patterns, which can cause colic signs. Stress can change the environment in your horse’s gut, which can cause colic signs. Warm weather can increase the potential for dehydration, electrolyte losses, and heat stress, which can also cause colic to flare up.

But forewarned is forearmed! Review these travel tips to help keep your horse stress free and cool while traveling.

If trailering is difficult for you and your horse during the show season, try AQHA’s FREE Horse Trailer Loading Tips report and be on your way to a great showing experience!

    • Although Fall is upon us, many of us still experience warm weather. If it’s hot outside your trailer, it’ll be even warmer inside your trailer. Between your horse’s natural body heat and the heating up of the trailer, it can turn into a near-oven inside. If you’re traveling on a warm day, consider giving your horse a dose of electrolytes for a couple of days before your trip so he’ll be well-hydrated. (Check with your veterinarian first.)
    • As a precautionary measure, some veterinarians recommend keeping a tube of nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory (NSAID) pain reliever handy during long trips. If your horse begins to experience colic signs, the pain reliever will make his trip more comfortable until you get to help. Be sure to check with your equine association prior to showing to make sure you are complying with their rules of competition pertaining to NSAID use.
    • Consider hauling when temperatures are coolest. Travel at night if possible or in the very early morning hours.
    • If it’s warm outside, open all the vents and windows to allow as much air flow as possible through your trailer and across your horse’s skin. However, there’s one big caveat: Never let your horse hang his head out of the drop-down window while you’re moving. This can cause head, neck and eye injuries.
    • Stop every four to five hours at a minimum in the shade. Just shutting off the engine can make a big difference. The rumble of the engine is enough to raise your horse’s anxiety level, which can make him refuse food and water, and also decrease elimination. This can cause serious colic risks, so make your breaks last at least 20 to 30 minutes to allow your horse to rest.

Be on your way to your horse show much faster with AQHA’s FREE Horse Trailer Loading Tips report. Get your horse in the trailer and on the road faster with these tips.

  • If your horse loads and unloads easily, and if you can find a spot to stop that’s completely horse safe, consider unloading your horse on these stop-overs.
  • Offer your horse water at each break. If he’s a picky drinker, consider bringing water from home. Even if he’s thirsty and wants to drink while traveling, he may resist because the water from the roadside gas station smells or tastes different.
  • Know how to check vital signs, such as temperature, respiratory rate and pulse. If you suspect your horse isn’t feeling well, you can monitor vitals to decide. If vital signs aren’t normal, contact a veterinarian immediately.
  • If your trip will take longer than 12 hours, plan an overnight stop en route. Studies show horses arrive less stressed if they’ve had at least an eight-hour break.

6 thoughts on “Colic-Free Travel”

  1. I am a member of AQHA and have two mares. One always paws when we stop our trailer, impatient about getting off. When we travel long distance, we stop often, offer water from home, feed hay, etc., but she continues to paw at the floor. She is 14 and I have had her since a foal. She is not impatient any other time, stands forever quietly in cross ties. Is there a way to get her past this impatience? If I ever have this to do over again, another baby, I will load them and leave them with hay and water, always under watchful eye, for a little longer time than stopping and unloading. I have a slant load with drop down window, and we always open the windows so our horses can get their heads out when we stop. This mare is calm and quiet, not upset or fearful, she just wants off.

  2. Good idea about your colts-if you ever have any again. Try leading your mare in the trailer and feeding her grain and scratching her in her sweet spot, and only leave her in there a short amount of time. Do this maybe twice a day, and slowly increase the amount of time she’s in there and deacrease the grain and scratching. If she gets impatient again, leave her in there shorter and scratch more. If your really despret, put a hobble on her while your trailering her. Teach her that it’s fun to be in a trailer-and she gets grain.

  3. I definitely agree with Abby, except for one thing – I would never hobble a horse in a moving trailer. Horses need to constantly shift their weight and move around to rebalance around turns and through aceleration/deceleration… a hobble may prevent a horse from being able to move its legs far or fast enough to rebalnce, causing it to fall over. This would be very dangerous, especially with other horses in the trailer that may step on the fallen horse.

  4. Hobbling is definitely a bad idea. When I get back from a ride I leave my horse in the trailer. If he paws he stays in longer. Sometimes for many hours until he calms down and stops pawing. If you let your horse out when he she is pawing she is being trained to paw to get out of the trailer. Not good. Good luck and great riding.

  5. Thank you so much for making these vidoes, I’m 13 and I ve been riding since I was 5. And I might get a horse soon so I need to know what to do if something like this happens. And you have a really pretty paint btw

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