Your horse will inevitably have to travel for any number of reasons. Even if all the travel arrangements are made by your stable, you’ll want to know the proper protocols for yourself. There are a couple of reasons for this:
A large part of keeping your horse healthy on a trip has to do with how it is stabled at the destination. You will undoubtedly be involved in this. Changes in your horse’s health may manifest themselves in ways that you—as your horse’s chief companion—are likely to notice before anyone else does. So let’s tick through them.
If the current pandemic has taught us anything, it is to be mindful of infectious diseases. Nearly all the procedures and precautions discussed here relate to preventing your horse from contracting something during its travels, and avoiding transmission of anything it might pick up along the way.
This is also the time to make sure all your horse’s vaccinations are up to date. If any vaccinations will be required, make sure this is done at least a month before departure. In the same way a flu shot can affect you, horses can suffer mild symptoms from their shots. Not only can this make the trip unpleasant, it may affect their performance. Neither is good.
In transit, your horse should always wear leg protection such as travel boots. Horses fidget during their journey and hoof strikes on adjacent legs are common. Even if the wound is not serious at first, any open spot can turn into a painful problem that travel boots can easily prevent.
On longer trips, make sure your horse is adequately hydrated throughout. If your horse is not a big drinker away from home, consider cutting up some apple and putting it in water. Also, a feedbag will add to their comfort; ad-lib forage should be provided, supplemented by small amounts of hard feed if it is a long trip. Extra bedding will give them a comfortable stance. Depending on how long the trip will be, you might also consider leg bandages to prevent fluid build-up in the legs.
As soon as you arrive at your destination, make sure the assigned stall is completely cleaned of all old bedding. If this is not possible, at least make sure the stable is clean and all feces, old food, and other debris is removed. This is the source of most biohazards for horses. Once the stall is clean, use a disinfectant to completely sanitize the space. After you’ve laid out clean bedding, provide fresh water from a running source (not standing water). Change the water frequently during your time at the event grounds.
During the event, make every effort to avoid tracking feces or loose hay into the stall by picking your horses feet out every time they leave or enter their stable, as well as your own boots. These are the chief transmitters of communicable diseases in horses. However, airborne disease is a much more serious threat. Try to refrain from having your horse nuzzle or touch other horses that are not from your barn. Direct contact can transmit ringworm. Even a seemingly healthy horse can be an asymptomatic carrier of diseases like equine herpesvirus, influenza, or strangles.
Upon returning to your home stable, keep your horse as isolated as possible from stablemates for two weeks… for the sake of the other horses. Sanitize all your tack, horse boots, grooming kits, and any other items that may have picked up microbes along the way. And keep a sharp eye out for any unusual behavior that might suggest illness or injury.
These precautions may seem onerous at first. But they are actually easy habits to build. By turning them into your normal travel routine, you—and your horse—will be free to enjoy new places and rewarding events.