How to Take Your Horse on a Long Trailer Ride 2022


Traveling long distances with a horse can be stressful for the animal. In order to ensure that your horse is comfortable and relaxed throughout the duration of the trip, there are a variety of things that can be done to help prepare. Make sure that the trailer and towing vehicle are in proper working order. Prepare the horse for transit, take frequent breaks to check on the horse, and ensure that the horse is provided with an adequate amount of recovery time.


Part 1 of 4:Getting the Trailer and Vehicle Ready

1Make sure the trailer is in proper working order. Check your trailer carefully before completing a long distance trip. Make sure that your trailer is an appropriate size for the horse being transported. For example, a small trailer will be very uncomfortable for a large horse. Inspect the following parts of the trailer before heading out:

Tire pressure. Make sure that the tires are full and do not have any holes or punctures. Ensure that the trailer has a spare tire that is easy to access.

Brakes and brake lights.

Taillights. Make sure they are in working condition.

Floor. Make sure it is stable and sturdy and that there are no sharp edges or signs of rusting/wearing on the inside floor of the trailer.

Loading ramp. Ensure it is stable and can support the horse.

Trailer hitch. It is very important that the connection between the truck and trailer is solid so that the trailer does not come detached mid-trip.

Internal partitions. Make sure they are solidly attached and not likely to come loose and fall on the horse during transit.

Door latches and locks. It is extremely important that your doors remain locked and closed during travel as horses can fall out onto the road or highway causing a major accident.

2Place bedding in the trailer. In order to reduce pressure on your horse's joints and feet during travel, you should place a rubber mat down for traction and comfort. You should also cover the bottom of the trailer with bedding. For example, place a thin layer of straw or shavings on the floor of the trailer. This will provide your horse with some added comfort and will soak up any urine or fecal matter.

Metal flooring with straw directly on top can lead to slipping and make the horse unstable if the trailer makes a sudden stop.

If your horse is in an open air trailer the bedding may blow around and get into their respiratory tract. In these cases use a minimal amount of bedding.

In a closed trailer you can add more bedding for comfort.

3Equip your trailer with a well-stocked first aid kit. When travelling long distances with your horse, you should always pack a first aid kit. In case of an emergency, a first aid kit will help to treat your horse while you wait for help. Things to include in a travel first aid kit for your horse:





Bandage material.

Betadine or chlorohexadine scrub and saline.

Antibiotic ointments for wounds.

Electrolytes and/or probiotics.

Any medications or supplements, such as Banamine (to treat Colic).

Do not give medication to your horse without first consulting a veterinarian. Giving pain medication can mask your horse's symptoms which may make diagnosing the issue more difficult.

4Consider a trailer camera. You may want to install a trailer camera in your trailer so that you can watch the horse during transit. This will allow you to monitor your horse's behavior and will alert you to any potential problems that your horse experiences while traveling. For example, you can watch your horse and see if they are in discomfort or panicking while the vehicle is moving.

If you notice your horse's behavior change, then you may want to stop for a rest and check to make sure everything is alright.

Part 2 of 4:Preparing Your Horse

1Get the proper vaccines and paperwork for your horse. When you are traveling long distances with your horse, particularly across state or national borders, you may be required to get your horse vaccinated or provide certain paperwork. For example, the most common paperwork required is a health certificate, brand inspection, and a negative Coggins test.

Search online to discover the exact papers and vaccines that are required for your planned destination.

Talk with your vet a few months before your trip in order to ensure that your horse has all of the proper medical paperwork necessary for travel.

Keep in mind most health certificates are only good for 30 days so take this into consideration when planning your trip.

2Put shipping boots on your horse. Shipping boots can provide your horse's legs with protection during transport. They can support the horse's legs and prevent swelling. Make sure that you remove the boots during long off-load stops, such as overnight. Shipping boots can cause rubs or irritations when applied improperly.

Introduce the shipping boots to your horse prior to transport.

Open the boot and wrap around the bottom of your horse's leg (just above the foot). Do up the middle clasp first, followed by the bottom clasp, and then the top clasp.

Make sure you apply the boots to the proper leg (e.g., the right front boot goes on the right front leg).

There are also shipping head and tail protectors available to further protect your horse during transit.

3Practice short trailer trips with your horse. If your horse is not used to riding in a trailer, you should allow your horse to become comfortable with the trailer by practicing shorter trips. This will help your horse become accustomed to the space and will get it used to loading and unloading as well as balancing. Some of the major concerns when transporting a horse long distances are anxiety and stress. By introducing your horse to the trailer, you can help alleviate stress.

It is very important to train your horse to load and unload on your own trailer as well as other types of trailers, if possible. This will make your trips more enjoyable and less stressful.

4Flavor your horse's water prior to travel. Sometimes horses will not drink water with a different taste or smell from the water they normally drink. If you are travelling a long distance and staying away from home for a long time, you may not be able to pack enough water from your home sources. In order to ensure that your horse stays hydrated while travelling, you can try using flavored water.

Begin flavoring their water two to three days prior to travel so that they get used to the new taste.

Try flavoring with Gatorade, applesauce, carrot shreds, molasses, or peppermint.

You can also make a tea by stirring a handful of sweet feed into the water and allowing it to soak for a while before straining it out.

Experiment until you find a flavor that is irresistible to your horse.

Do not flavor with juices that are high in sugar, such as apple juice.

5Take the necessary precautions to avoid shipping fever. Shipping fever is a term used to describe any bacterial respiratory infection and is characterized by a strong cough. Typically, shipping fever occurs as a result of long distance travel among horses who are stressed. Try these tips to reduce your horse's chance of developing shipping fever:

Travel with multiple horses. Even if you only need to transport one horse, you should always bring along another horse to provide company and reduce stress.

Make sure your horse has enough room to drop its head during travel. This will allow it to clear any particulate matter from the respiratory tract.

Take your horse to the vet prior to travel to make sure that it is healthy. If your horse is sick, long travel will likely worsen the illness.

Take your horse's temperature before you travel that day. Your horse's rectal temperature should be between 98-101 degrees Fahrenheit (36-38 degrees Celsius).

Make sure that the trailer is well ventilated and that your horse is well fed and watered during transportation.

Give your horse vitamin C or a commercial immune system booster before travelling to help their immune system and prevent shipping fever. Always consult with your veterinarian prior to administering anything to your horse as they may be able to recommend a more effective vaccine or product.

Part 3 of 4:Transporting a Horse Long Distances

1Take rest breaks every 2 to 3 hours. Long trailer rides can be stressful on the horse. As a result, it is important that you take frequent breaks, typically every two to three hours. While you are driving, your horse is constantly expending energy in an attempt to balance. A break from driving will allow your horse an opportunity to rest. A few things to consider during each break:

Park the trailer in the shade and open up windows to allow them to cool off. The trailer can be quite warm so it is a good idea to cool down your horse during breaks.

Offer the horse water and replenish their food supply.

Do not offload the horse during a roadside stop. This can be dangerous if you are not familiar with the area and it may be difficult to re-load the horse.

Recheck your trailer hitch, brake lights, and other safety points on the trailer at each stop.

Rest stops should last 30-60 minutes.

2Monitor your horse's vital signs at each stop. Throughout the journey you should monitor the health of your horse for signs of stress, colic, or illness. At least twice a day, during a rest break, check your horse's temperature (normal is 98-101 degrees Fahrenheit or 36-38 degrees Celsius), pulse (normal is 36-44 beats/min.), and respiratory rate (normal is 8-20 breaths/min.). You should also monitor:

Hydration: Look at their gums (they should be pale pink and moist) or complete a tent test (squeeze their skin on their neck or shoulders. It should bounce back to normal. If it stays raised it likely means the horse is dehydrated.)

Signs of Colic: See if the horse is showing signs of abdominal pain by pawing, looking at their sides, trying to lay down in the trailer, or won't eat. If any of these signs are present, consult a veterinarian.

Respiration: Your horse should be taking even breaths at a normal rate, they should not be fast and shallow or slow, very deep and audible. If any of these signs are present, consult a veterinarian.

3Feed your horse while traveling. Supply your horse with hay during transportation. You should have a hay bag for each horse that is travelling. If your horse is a fast eater, you can use a slow feeder bag to reduce the risk of choking. Supply the same hay that your horse is used to eating at home.

Travelling can be stressful on your horse, so it is important to pack enough hay to last the entire trip as well as one to two weeks once you reach the destination.

Give damp hay to a horse during travel. This will reduce the amount of dust in the air and can help prevent shipping fever.

Pre-load a number of hay bags in order to save time during rest stops. This way you can easily replace the bag.

4Provide water for your horse. It may be difficult to provide your horse with water while the vehicle is moving. As a result, you should always offer your horse water during each rest stop. They may not drink water immediately, or at all rest stops, but you should always offer water. It is extremely important that your horse remains hydrated during transport.

Some horses will refuse to drink water that smells or tastes differently than their home water source. Bring a tank of water from home so that your horse can drink from a familiar water source.

If it is not possible to bring a large supply of water from home, then you can try feeding your horse flavored water. You should start this prior to departure so that your horse is accustomed to drinking water that tastes different.

5Drive cautiously. When you are driving a horse trailer, you need to be extra cautious. Remember that the horse is standing up the entire time trying to balance. You should gradually increase and decrease your speed, navigate corners slowly and carefully, and be aware that your vehicle is much longer and heavier than normal. Try not to use quick movements that could throw the horse off balance.

Practice by driving the trailer around empty so that you can get used to the size of the vehicle.

6Arrange boarding if traveling overnight. Your horse should only be trailered for a maximum of 12 hours in a day. If your trip is going to take longer than 12 hours, then you will need to arrange to stable the horse overnight while on-route. They should be removed from the vehicle for at least 8 hours in order to rest. This time is essential for rehydration and will allow them to clear out their respiratory system, helping to reduce the chances of shipping fever.

Plan your route in advance and find a location where you can stable your horse.

Many farms will allow you to rent a stable for the night.

7Research and map out equine hospitals along the route. Do this ahead of time, in case you need emergency care during your travel. It will be a comfort to know approximately where the referral hospitals are located in the area and to have contact information for them. At the very least, if something goes wrong you will be able to consult with a veterinarian 24 hours a day.

Part 4 of 4:Resting After Travel

1Allow your horse to recover. When you are embarking on a long trailer ride with your horse, it is important that you set aside two to three days for recovery following the trip. Some horses, even healthy ones, may develop shipping fever during, or shortly after, arriving at their destination. Your horse should have a few days rest before attempting any major physical activity.

For example, if you are transporting your horse over a long distance to take part in a trail ride, you will want to arrive a few days ahead of the ride to allow your horse a chance to recover from the travel.

If your horse is expected to engage in a performance-based activity, you should give them more time for recovery. Arrive five to six days ahead of a competition date to allow them enough recovery time.

2Monitor the horse upon arrival. Once you have arrived at your destination, you should check your horse's temperature, make sure that it is drinking water, eating, and passing normal urine and manure. If the horse shows any signs of illness, contact a veterinarian immediately.

Walk the horse around a small paddock upon arrival. This is so that the horse can stretch its legs.