Travelling with horses can have its complications and keeping your horses healthy before, during and after transport can be key to eventing success. Richard Mckenzie has been an equine vet and horse owner for over 32 years and shares his tips on ensuring your horse has a safe journey and arrives at your big event ready to compete.
In the weeks leading up to the journey you will want to check your horse’s respiratory health, bodyweight and temperature. If they have a cough or nasal discharge you may want to investigate. Blood tests and gastroscopy can pick up gastric ulcers or subtle signs of illness which could be affecting their performance.
If your horse will be on a different diet while you are away at the event, it’s recommended that you introduce the new diet slowly. This will minimise the potential for gastric upset or colic during your time away from home.
There are strict withholding periods with many medications and it is recommended to avoid vaccinations prior to competition, as there have been rare cases of horses having a reaction. If your horse is on medication, it will pay to double check the regulations with your vet and be aware, they may mask temperature changes, signs of travel related illness and suppress your horse’s appetite.
Ensure your horse is hydrated before hitting the road and pack some quality hay/feed and water from home with you. Travelling equines should have access to forage and water every four hours.
You may also want to check your truck & float before loading the horses. It’s nearly the end of the season and you may not have noticed potential hazards and damage from previous trips. Check your tyres, latches, and any rattles.
Once you arrive at the event you will want to give your horse time to relax, eat and drink before beginning exercise. Stay close and monitor their food and water intake as we often see cases of colic, choke and dehydration in the hours following long distance travel.
Signs of dehydration to keep an eye out for include dull eyes, lack of appetite, depression, and body weight loss. There are some great electrolytes and flavour enhancing products available which can assist with your horse’s appetite if they are uninterested in food and water and fluids can be administered by a vet if your horse has lost over 5% in bodyweight to get them back to eventing condition as soon as possible.
If you have any concerns about your horse following your journey do not hesitate to give the VS Equine team a call. A vet should also be on-site offering comprehensive veterinary services.