Horse, of Course
with Don Blazer
Horses are pretty
good travelers, if you give them half a chance.
But if you don't, shipping stress can kill!
If you think you are knocked out and dragged down and a bit tired after
riding in a car for 10 to 14 hours, give some thought to 17, 18, or 19
hours in a hot, dark, swaying horse van or trailer.
Now it's usually not the trailer that causes the trouble. Today's horse
trailers are pretty nice. Walter, a horse, of course, rides in a Jamco
three-horse slant, and you can't get a trailer better built or with more
comforts for the horse.
The problem usually starts with the person hauling the horse. Hauling
horses for long periods of time is serious business. It is estimated that
on road trips of 10 or more hours, at least 10 per cent of the horses
suffer some sickness.
Prior to a long trip, horses should be well rested and in good health.
Horses should be fed and watered prior to shipping. It is a good idea
give mineral oil prior to long trips as a prevention to impaction.
If a horse is wearing a blanket when loaded, chances are within two hours
he is going to be too hot. Check the interior temperature of the trailer
often. A light sheet will usually suffice while traveling, even in very
During the trip the horses should be watered every few hours, kept as
quiet as possible, and every attempt should be made to avoid severe heat
cold within the trailer.
Stress is the real danger. It's jangled nerves, increased pulse,
dehydration and mucous membranes so dry they are breaking down.
"Once a horse is suffering severe stress (which is bad enough), he's
subject to viral or bacterial infections," says Dr. Jack Sales. "If
severely stressed horse comes down with an infection he's in real trouble
since he's almost always too weak to fight back."
Too many horsemen simply don't give enough thought to shipping stress
since the norm is a short trip with a well seasoned horse.
But young, excitable horses, and older horses not used to travel can get
out of a trailer suffering depression, dehydration, dizziness and often
respiratory and digestive problems.
"When a horse's temperature goes up," says Dr. Sales, "his
rate goes up in an effort to cool him down. But the faster he breathes,
the faster he takes in hot dry air and expels moist air. As he expels
moist air he is losing body fluids through evaporation, and so his
temperature tends to climb, creating a vicious circle."
Dr. Sales concedes it may not always be possible or advisable to take
horse off a van during a long trip. "But it's the hauler's responsibility
to see to it the horses are riding as comfortable and stress-free as
Once a horse arrives, pulse, respiration and temperature should be taken.
The normal pulse is about 36 beats per minute; the normal respiration
18 cycles per minute. The normal temperature is about 100 degrees.
Dr. Sales says the color of the gums under the upper lip should be noted.
"The color should be light pink, not red, or blue or gray-green."
If the horse's vital signs are not near normal, if the gum color is not
pink, and if the horse appears depressed and won't eat, medical attention
should be immediate.
The look, the style and the paint job on the trailer is far too often
important to the horseman than the possible stress his horse may suffer.
Getting to the next stop on time, making the trip profit margin a bit
wider, or skipping a rest stop to get home sooner is far too often more
important to the van driver than checking on his cargo.
When there's shipping stress in the cab, action is taken.
When the shipping stress is in the trailer, too often it goes unnoticed.