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Guest Blog from Dr. Eva! Tips for Equine Transport

Hi there,
I hope everyone is having a wonderful beginning of the summer! Today we have an exciting new guest blogger, Dr. Eva Reinicke who joined our practice in June. It’s that time of year where we all love to get out and ride our horses, taking them to local shows, performance competitions, rodeo or just do some good old trail riding with friends. This often means transporting them, sometimes just a couple of miles down the road and other times to other states or even across the country. Today we’d like to discuss some tips and considerations for keeping horses comfortable and healthy during transport.

Low Stress is Key

Horse (and human) immune systems can be disrupted by stress due to the hormone cortisol, so it’s important to take steps to minimize stress before transport even starts.
1) Teaching your horse how to load in and out of a trailer can greatly reduce the amount of stress it has associated with travel. This should preferably be practiced several times before actual transport.
2) Separation from a herd is also a stress trigger and so arranging to ride with a buddy can be beneficial as long as that buddy is comfortable in the trailer.
3) Plan routes ahead of time to decrease the amount of time horses spend in the trailer and consider traffic conditions, construction, weather conditions (heat, cold, hail, thunder).
4) If hauling for more then 3-4 hours allow horses adequate time to get off the trailer and rest, drink and eat and relax. For every hour hauled allow about 10-15 minutes of rest.

Minimize Respiratory Disease

Transport is a risk factor for respiratory disease in horses but luckily there are a few things that can help decrease that risk.
1) Have your horse vaccinated annually against equine respiratory pathogens such as Equine Influenza, Equine Rhino pneumonitis and Strangles. In some cases, horses that are transported often, traveling long distances or exposed to a lot of other horses may need to be vaccinated more often or with different vaccinations depending on their risk.
2) Shipping fever is a term used for several different respiratory diseases that affect horses around the time of hauling. These can range from conditions associated with allergies (Recurrent Airway Obstructions, aka “heaves”) to more severe conditions like pneumonia and pleuritis (inflammation of the membranes that surround the lungs). Tying a horse’s head up for long periods of time during transport (4 or more hours) without breaks can increase the risk of disease because it decreases the horse’s normal ability to clear its lungs.
3) Trailer hygiene is important when considering transportation because ammonia and dust particulate can damage a horse’s airways as well. Cleaning trailers every 3-4 hours and providing soft dust free bedding will help minimize risk of disease.
4) Adequate ventilation in a trailer is essential to reducing risk of spreading respiratory pathogens and decreasing the amount of particulate matter from dust and hay. A trailer should have between 4-10 air exchanges per hour, so that may mean you need to keep windows and ceiling vents partway open during transport.

Hydration

Keeping horses hydrated before, during and after transportation is also important in preventing respiratory disease as well as colic. Before transporting a horse, make sure it has had 24-hour access to clean, cool, fresh water. During transport, it’s ideal to stop every 2-3 hours during the summer to offer water. Some horses may need to be offered electrolytes in water to encourage them to drink. Occasionally horses will be picky about their water sources and prefer drinking water from the home stable or dechlorinated water if the new water source is part of a city supply.

Horse First Aid Kit

It’s a good idea to always have a first aid kit for horses ready during transport. If you have it ready, hopefully you won’t need it! Items can include a thermometer, Banamine (flunixin meglamine), Telfa pads, or non-stick bandages, cling wrap, Gamgee wrap or roll cotton, Vetrap and bandage scissors. It’s always a good idea to have a veterinary emergency number available.

Thanks everyone for reading about medical considerations of transport in horses!! I hope you have a wonderful summer and get lots of opportunity to get out and do some wonderful riding!

Best,
Dr. Eva Reinicke

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