Care & Grooming Tips (15
of 15) - Horse Trailer & Travel
the Right Road
by Ronda Quaid
If long distance
traveling is a new challenge you are considering, you may find the
thought of heading down the road a frightening one. Whether you've
decided to hit the rodeo or show circuit, or haul your family and
horses to a neighboring state for a much-needed vacation the long
haul takes some extensive planning. Attention to details -- ranging
from horse health and packing, to your trailer's condition and navigating
the road -- can make the difference between a rewarding challenge
and a disaster. Here are some tips to help minimize the risks from
experienced horse people who have logged thousands of miles.
- The Rodeo Road
is a PRCA steer wrestler who has traveled as many as 100,000 miles
a year during his 20 year career. He is the owner of Badmotorscooter,
a three time AQHA and PRCA horse of the year, and Yellow Dog who
has been not only PRCA Horse of the Year, but has gone to the NFR
for nine consecutive years. These accomplishments could only have
been achieved by healthy horses.
My horses are
my livelihood. I am a fanatic about their care, especially when
traveling, explained Powers. I might have eight or nine guys riding
my horses. I get 25% of what they earn, so I better make sure those
horses are comfortable, and able to do their job.
long distances he makes a stop every six to eight hours. He unloads
the horses and lets them rest for 45 minutes.
Truck or rest
stops usually have an area in the back that is large enough to unload,
I always use
eight inches of sawdust for an extra layer of cushioning. When I
stop I clean out the floor and replace the sawdust -- every single
with a Bruton four-horse bumper pull trailer towed by a one ton
Ford dually set up with a camper. He always travels as a team.
I travel with
at least one other person, explained Powers. "That way someone
can rest while the other drives.The person at the wheel must always
be alert. I believe you can take a lot of the stress off of your
horse just by the way you drive. I always drive with that horse
in mind. I drive a consistent speed, and pay careful attention to
stops and turns. I never rush a trip. If I'm in a hurry, I leave
earlier, he added.
Powers is an
advocate of wrapping the traveler's legs.
I use a brace
rub that was recommended by a friend who is a race horse trainer,
and I wrap all four legs with no bow' wraps. It helps to support
the tendons, sort of like support panty hose, he added.
I go to as
many a 100 rodeos a year and my horses always arrive fit and ready
of close confinement, constant movement, disruption of eating, drinking
and bowel habits, and fluctuations in climate can put a horse at
risk for colic. A good worming program is one of the best ways to
help the equine passenger avoids this condition.
worms all his horses every two months.
I'm in so many
arenas and so many stalls that I have to worm more than the average
traveler. However, any time you are changing your horse's climate
and environment you need to give him every advantage against parasites.
He also gives
his horses supplements to help maintain their health during a trip.
He uses a body builder vitamin, ESE powder and baking soda (which
helps prevent colic).
I also like
to get my horses used to traveling long before I ask them to go
significant distances, said Powers. I start my colts out going from
ranch to ranch where I live in Sonora, Texas. I make sure they are
comfortable during those short trips. I want to be sure that I have
a horse that is willing to load after I make a stop on the road.
The place to train is at home, not on the road.
line, he adds, is that the horse comes first. He eats before I eat,
his travel accommodations are as good or better than mine. If you
have a well broke, healthy horse riding in comfortable conditions
you are probably not going to have any problems.
-- Western Pleasure Champion
and seminars and hauling for titles, trainer Cleve Wells can put
in 10,000 miles in just one month traveling from home base in Texas
to Washington, Canada, Indiana and on to Ohio for the AQHA Congress.
He has trained and produced 17 AQHA world champions and reserve
champions. He trained the only two horses (Zippos Amblin Easy and
Zippos Silent Night) in AQHA history to win all three World titles
(Open, Amateur and Youth) with three different riders. He is pursuing
2000 AQHA honors with Hotroddin Zippo.
the sentiments of Powers when it come to putting the equine traveler's
When I travel
I rarely stop for more than 15 minutes. We bring snacks to eat long
the way rather than stop in restaurants. I want to get those horses
to where they need to be as quickly as possible. Their comfort comes
Because I travel
with six and seven horse Sundowner gooseneck trailers that are roomy
and travel so smoothly I don't unload my horses, he explained. These
trailers are triple axle and are so stable they literally float
down the highway. The front of the trailer is the softest spot so
I usually load the oldest horse first.
is a factor in his decision not to wrap his horses.
trailers protect the horses from a lot of the stress of travel I
worry more about the disadvantages of wrapping. Shavings can get
down inside the wraps causing irritation that can make the horse
paw. They also add to the horse's heat load in hot weather. I also
worry about tendons becoming weak from so much artificial support
during long trips. Making sure that my horses are good, compatible
haulers eliminates the concern for kicking.
I always stop
after the first hour and check on the horses. Then I stop every
three to four hours and check their nostrils and eyes, and their
food and water, said Wells. I have special built-in food and water
mangers so that my horses can drink and eat during the whole trip.
You have to make sure they are drinking. Pinch their skin to make
sure they aren't dehydrated (pinch about where you would give an
injection on the flat of the neck, if the skin snaps back he's OK,
if it stays tented he's dehydrated). I give them electrolytes to
help prevent this. To help prevent aches and stiffness, I give them
that if you are feeding in the trailer make sure the horse is tied
so he can get to the bottom of what you are feeding.
You don't want
your horse pawing and pulling toward feed he can't reach.
is another factor that can effect a horse's comfort in a trailer
as well as his health.
opening just the side windows on most trailers. This provides ventilation
without creating so much air flow that sawdust and feed are blowing
around the trailer.
I am also very
leery of opening the roof vents if you are traveling through climate
extremes. I have a friend who forgot to close the roof vents when
he was traveling from a warm area to an extremely cold one. His
horse ended up with pneumonia.
If you do use
the roof vents he recommends that you face them the opposite way
to let hot air out without creating a direct draft on the horses,
trailer temperature is so important to Wells that he has installed
thermometers in his trailers both in the front and the rear areas.
I always check
those thermometers when I stop even before I head to the bathroom.
That way you have an accurate reading. If the temperature is either
too hot or too cold you can make any necessary adjustments. I recommend
carrying blankets for every trip. Weather can change dramatically
without much warning when you're on the road so you need to be prepared.
After a stop
is a good time to recheck your hitch and connections, trailer doors
and windows, and all tires. Do this every time.
- Legendary Cutter
the road is a routine part of the territory for this famed cutter.
Lindy Burch has been involved with the sport for 30 years earning
over 2.5 million dollars long the way. She is in the Cowgirl Hall
of Fame, the National Cutting Horse Hall of Fame and the Texas Cowboy
Hall of Fame. Her many accomplishments include winning the National
Futurity, World Champion Mare two times and World Champion Finals
I live in Texas
where we have extremely hot weather so ventilation is a big concern
for me, explained Burch. I have drop down doors on the windows which
allow for good air flow. It makes me so mad to see people driving
down the road hauling a horse trailer that's all shut up, and they're
sitting in the truck with the air conditioning on. You have to be
aware of the outside temperature while you're driving. You may comfortable,
but the conditions might be very different for your horse.
She also has
tight woven screens on each window to prevent any debris from entering
the horse's space.
I really worry
about someone throwing out a cigarette and having it blow into the
trailer. The screens prevent this. The screens also help to keep
bystanders away from your horses when you stop. Believe me, strangers
will come up to your trailer and lift their kids right up to your
horse's face without thinking about the danger of that. It's best
to have your horse and the public protected.
She joins her
professional colleagues in giving the utmost attention to her horses
health and comfort.
have nice deep feeders so I can free feed while I travel. I use
a good grade grass hay.
Hay is a great
pacifier for a traveling horse, but research suggests not feeding
grain during a long distance trip. Stress can effect gut function
leaving grain to sit and ferment. This could lead to colic or laminitis.
gives her horses electolytes which not only helps hydrate them,
but also helps them adapt to changes in weather.
I always make
sure they are drinking. I usually check every 4 - 6 hours depending
on the weather, she said. If I find one not drinking I'll try using
a syringe to get some water in him. If he still won't drink, I'll
unload him if it's safe, let him walk around, and offer again. Water
is the most critical factor while traveling. Dehydration can easily
lead to colic.
have good mats and she also adds six inches of sawdust.
I always clean
out my trailers when I get home. I remove all the feed so that they
have completely fresh feed for the next trip. I make sure the trailer
is clean and dry. Of course they will almost always immediately
urinate on the clean shavings just to aggravate me, she laughed.
All my horses
are good haulers. That's because I pay special attention to my driving
style. Bad haulers come from a bad trailer experience. When I was
about 16 I was a bit of a hotrodder. I liked speed. My dad saw me
driving a horse trailer that way one day so he taught me an important
lesson, she recalled.
He put me in
a two-horse trailer, and drove me around for awhile back there using
my driving style. I'll tell you I was bounced around so badly it
bruised the heck out of me. From then on I drove a lot differently.
You also need
to drive defensively, more so than without a trailer. I guarantee
someone is going to pull out in front of you at some point so always
expect it. Give yourself plenty of room to stop and drive slower.
Basically it's Ôtrust no one, assume the worst, and adjust
promotes having a flight plan for any long trip, not just the route,
but an emergency plan, too.
are always going to help you out if you have a problem on the road.
If you are involved with any kind of horse organization, make sure
you check the membership directory before you leave so you have
people you can call along the way for help if you break down or
if you need a vet.
Ray Belmore -- Happy Trails
aren't the only ones hitting the road. Carol and Ray Belmore of
Skull Valley, Arizona have participated in the AQHA Ride Program
since 1997, and have already enjoyed the trail on 25 rides. Although
Carol has had horses all her life, and is a racing Quarter Horse
breeder, hauling to distant trails was new to her (they also haul
their mules for rides, and their entourage includes a goat named
The AQHA Ride
Program has been great for bolstering membership. Before this program
started the AQHA was centered on racing and showing. There really
weren't any programs for the majority of owners who are trail and
Carol is on
the AQHA Affiliates Council which is a resource organization concerned
with helping programs, recruiting new members and assisting in grant
writing. The AQHA approached the Belmores asking if they would help
promote the new trail riding program.
We felt if
we believed in the importance of this type of program we better
get out and support it. We traveled extensively that first year,
preparation of their horses for travel is similar to their professional
counterparts. Carol stresses the importance of worming, but cautions
that it should not be done while you are traveling.
You want to
do your worming at least three days before you travel because the
worming itself can cause stress on their systems. I worm religiously
every eight weeks.
are an important part of her program as well as a handy supply of
water from home.
won't drink unfamiliar water. If you aren't bringing water from
home electrolytes can help flavor the water to make it more palpable.
We carry a
large plastic water tank so that we can carry a good supply of water
wherever we go, she said. We carry water even on short trips because
you never know when you might break down, and not be anywhere near
a water source. We do the same with feed because it's always better
to have a little extra than not enough, she added.
If you are
going to be at a show for lengthy period and it's not practical
to carry enough water from home, you can flavor the horseÕs
home water a few days before you leave with a bit of soda, and then
add this to water on the road. Soda can also be rubbed on the gums
of a horse to encourage him to drink. If a traveling horse refuses
to drink after 12 hours, consult a veterinarian immediately.
I also like
to put a small salt block in the manger,explained Carol. Since we
are from the Southwest where temperatures can soar into triple digits,
we need to be especially careful about keeping our animals hydrated.'
weather fly season she also makes sure she sprays her horses before
she loads to help protect from any hitch hiking pests that could
make the trip miserable.
consulting your vet before you attempt any long distance trip.
I would ask
your vet about carrying a tranquilizer in case of emergency as long
as you are comfortable giving an injection, and know exactly when
it's appropriate to use it.
She and Ray
travel in an Exiss four-horse with living quarters. Carol has found
that the living area easily pays for itself in savings on room rentals.
trailer units have become very sophisticated. Anything you can get
in an RV is available in horse trailers. Fully equipped kitchens,
bathrooms with holding tanks (Carol suggested upgrading this), and
air conditioning are among features that can be designed any way
desired. Trailer dealers recommend with increased options that you
carry either a generator, or a charging system (this operates from
a specially installed plug on the tow vehicle to charge the trailer).
Because of the increase in weight an electric or hydraulic jack
is also recommended.
We like the
concept of staying all together, all the time, added Carol. ÒIt
also gives us the flexibility to stay in a variety of locations.
We use a picket line for our horses so we don't need to find stables
or stalls. I like the good old picket line best. The horses can
lie down and move around. I don't recommend using portable or electric
corrals unless you are in a remote area away from roads. A panicked
horse can knock those down and end up on the road.
She also stresses
that you need to introduce the picket line to the horse at home
in a controlled situation. Although most horses will quickly adapt
to a picket line, the road is no place try out a new experience.
We chose an
aluminum trailer because it is cooler. Our trailer is set up with
four roof vents one over each horse. This allows for a small amount
of air circulation without a direct draft, and without stirring
up sawdust, road dust and dried manure which can lead to respiratory
recommend mats no matter what flooring the trailer has. Mats help
to cushion the ride, and prevent a slippery surface caused by urine
and manure. They should be at least 3/4 inch thick, she said.
I really want
to emphasize the importance of routine trailer maintenance. It is
so sad to hear a story about a horse going through a rotten floor
when this is something that can so easily be prevented. You should
check your floor before every trip, and also the general condition
of the inside of the trailer. Make sure there are no jagged edges
or broken parts.
A yearly check
up with a reliable trailer service to check brakes, wheel bearings,
axles, and overall condition of the trailer is important even for
of what is needed for traveling is just common sense, there are
many things about interacting with horses that require specific
credit to the clinicians who do so much to inform new riders about
general safety, horse handling and trailering.
I was raised
on a ranch so I had a lot of practical knowledge that I could apply
to my traveling. Trainers like John Lyons and Pat Parelli have done
so much to educate new horse owners about many of the things that
some of us take for granted. I encourage anyone new to traveling
to make use of their expertise whether it's by attending a clinic,
or through their videos and books.
like most long distance travelers, use a slant load style trailer.
Research supports the theory that horses prefer this stall configuration.
Advances in trailer design have helped to develop wider, taller
rigs that provide for more comfort without a significant increase
however, a concern when matching your tow vehicle to your rig. If
your long distance travel plans include packing more supplies, and
maybe another horse and rider to buddy up for the road, you need
to make sure you don't exceed the gross combination weight rating
of your vehicle. Vehicles are rated for a limit on what they can
haul. To avoid overtaxing the mechanical abilities of the vehicle,
which would put the driver at greater risk of an accident, a fully
loaded rig must not exceed the vehicle's specified limits. Hauling
within the specified limits prevents compromising the ability to
accelerate, steer and stop, and lateral stability. It also prolongs
the life of the vehicle. Weight considerations include passengers,
equipment, trailer, hitch, horses, tack and any other cargo on board.
Consult the owner's manual or vehicle dealer for help in determining
the vehicle's towing ability. Trailer features such as weight distributing
hitches and anti-sway bars can help to further ensure a safe and
What to pack
your planning and preparation will prevent problems during a long
trip, but, since life is far from ideal, what you bring along should
reflect a concern for what if?
First aid kit
(horse and human)
folder (your name, address and telephone, who to contact to care
for your animals in case you are incapacitated, name and number
of your vet, any pertinent health information)
and lead ropes
with large cotton rope
parts (reins, keepers, buckles, cinches, etc.)
triangles (rather than flares, no fire danger)
or roll up block
kit ( you may want to add a few extra items like wire cutters, duct
tape and WD 40)
and emergency numbers
It's a good
idea to have a packing check list to consult before you leave. When
you've finally arrived at your destination it's no time to remember
that your saddle is on the rack in the den where you lovingly cleaned
it last night.
vehicle just before you leave checklist
wiper, brake, radiator and transmission fluid levels.
side and rear view mirrors.
and vents for proper ventilation.
hitch, breakaway cable, brake connection and chains.
Test your brakes,
trailer lights and turn signals.
Check all your
tires for proper inflation and overall condition.
routes and weather conditions.
Make sure your
horse is safely loaded with the butt bar in place and it's head
all doors and windows are securely latched (even that escape door
you've never used).
Once you have
your healthy, well trained, easy loading horse ready to travel in
an immaculate, smooth riding, well ventilated and maintained trailer
filled with water, feed, electrolytes, spare parts, and emergency
gear, youÕre ready to deal with traffic, overnight accommodations,
routes, and varying state regulations.
have accumulated a wealth of travel information during the past
few years that has helped them enjoy their involvement with the
You need to
inform yourself about road regulations that can vary from state
to state, explained Carol. In California, for example, you can only
go 55 miles an hour when pulling a trailer.
Club of America (AAA) has a road regulation pamphlet that outlines
each state's requirements and state trailering laws are included
in Cherry Hill's book Trailering Your Horse available at Arena Supply
recommends a checkup on your insurance coverage. Make sure your
trailer is covered while being towed. Sometimes the fine print reveals
that coverage does not include towing the trailer under certain
conditions. Road service with companies like AAA also does not include
your trailer. This service is available, but for an additional charge.
There are also
health certificate requirements that vary from state to state. Most
states require at least a negative Equine Infectious Anemia 'Coggins'
test. Your local vet should have a catalog listing the regulations
for every state. Become familiar with any travel restrictions imposed
by state health agencies due to current disease outbreaks. There
is a national veterinarian locator service (1-800-438-2386) to make
advance inquiries about your destination. This is an informational,
not an emergency, number.
Make sure all
your vaccinations are up-to-date, especially tetanus, and those
that help prevent respiratory ailments. They should be given at
least two weeks prior to travel to assure effectiveness.
I like to keep
all my horse records in a folder with clear sheets just like a show
folder. That way you have easy access to all your horse's information
should you be asked to show it, Carol added.
is attaching emergency information to a horse's travel halter (leather
is considered safer for travel) just in case he gets loose.
in unfamiliar territory while towing can be a frightening aspect
of travel. Taking advantage of new technology, the Belmores have
armed themselves with some handy travel tools. Carol carries a lap
top computer with the Global Positioning System (GPS) installed
that can be plugged into her vehicle's cigarette lighter. The GPS
can plot exactly where you are, and what the next exit is. The GPS
compact disk is available at most map stores and costs about $150.
They also employ a Microsoft program called Trip Planner 2000.
said Carol. You can ask it questions about road conditions, exactly
how long a trip should take, and traffic conditions. We carefully
plan out our trips before we leave so we know what areas to avoid,
and when and where we are going to stop. If we are staying at a
facility or with friends we stay in close communication so we donÕt
have any surprises. Email is great for that.
recommend some resources to help find accommodations. The Horseman's
Hotel Index and Horseman's Travel Directory are resources that help
the traveler find stables as well as campgrounds, fairgrounds and
roping arenas that are available for overnight stays. Information
on these publications is available online. Another resource is the
Nationwide Overnight Stabling Directory (316) 442-8131.
we have found helpful is the local Sheriff's Office. They often
have mounted units so they have facilities that might accommodate
the traveler, or they can recommend nearby facilities.
prefer, if possible, to travel on the larger Interstate roads.
They are usually
smoother riding which is easier on the horses, and the gas is cheaper.
We always stop for gas at the truck stops on the Interstate -- it's
much less than regular gas stations, she explained.
If you have
a diesel truck you need to be aware of varying regulations on diesel
fuel. For example in Arizona there is a special diesel tax, but,
if you request it, you can get a refund for recreational travel.
road for the show circuit, or traveling to experience spectacular
new vistas from horseback should be adventures that make your heart
beat faster with excitement not terror. Knowing that breakthroughs
in the horse care industry, and advances in trailer and tow vehicle
design provide for safer and more comfortable travel should help
to put your mind at ease. The experience of legendary travelers,
along with common sense and some research, can help transform you
into a skilled and confident traveler.