Choosing The Ideal Transport for Your Horse

22 January, 2020
Choosing the ideal transport for your horse is no easy task. In this article, we'll show you some of the most important points to bear in mind.

Whether it be for competitions, breeding, training, or veterinary check-ups, it’s not uncommon for owners to have to transport their horses. This can be a very delicate task, especially when the horse becomes distressed, or has a fear of traveling. Needless to say, taking steps to ensure the care and well-being of your horse is essential. Here are some of the things you should consider when it comes to choosing the ideal transport for your horse.

Depending on the distance your horse needs to travel, the best mode of transport will vary – as will the different regulations in place. Plane, lorry, trailer, or boat are just some of the options available. Today, it’s becoming increasingly common for owners to transport their animals themselves.

Regardless of the option you choose, you must do everything possible to ensure the best health, welfare and safety conditions for your horse, and minimize any potential risks.

Things to take into account when choosing the ideal transport for your horse

In the European Union, about 90% of animal transportation is done by land. And although your choice will largely be based on distance, you’ll need to take the utmost care whatever transport you use.

A woman and her horse.

This is because transporting horses often results in stress or injury. Stress is often caused by the fact that the horses are separated from their herd, and because they might not be used to traveling long distances, or traveling at all.

As such, it’s important to take steps to control their heart rate, their hydration levels, and be sure to drive carefully.

Transporting horses in lorries and trailers:

  • The trailer should be designed to prevent injuries. Experts recommend anti-slip flooring or shavings to soak up any urine.
  • You’ll need to protect your horse against extreme temperatures, and make sure it’s well-ventilated.
  • Your trailer should be at least 30 inches taller than the height of the tallest horse (measuring at the withers).
  • Make sure they have sufficient food and water, especially on long journeys.
  • Stop every six hours so the horse can eat, drink and go to the toilet. International regulations state that a horse can only travel for a maximum of 8 hours a day. For longer journeys, the transport must be specially set up to make sure the horse is comfortable. For example, they’ll need bedding, partitions, ventilation systems, and temperature control.
  • Each time you stop, be sure to check that your horse is okay.

Loading your horse for transport

To transport your horse safely, experts recommend tethering your horse before setting off, while still leaving it some room to move around. It’s important for it to be able to lower its head, in order to allow their airways to drain properly.

Horses should always travel facing forward or backward rather than sideways, as they can easily lose their balance.

There are different opinions on whether your horse should face forward or backward, although some studies have shown that by placing them facing forward, they feel less stressed.

The ideal transport for your horse: equipment and design

In addition to non-slip flooring or a layer of wood shavings, the ideal transport should also have windows. A well-ventilated environment minimizes the chance of your horse feeling claustrophobic, and reduces stress.

Some studies have concluded that the suspension of the trailer has a huge impact on the quality of the journey. Low tire pressure will make driving easier, and your horse less tired.

We would also recommend putting a rug on your horse before traveling. This will help protect them against cuts and grazes, and prevent them from catching a chill.

Air travel

If you’re traveling long distances, you may choose to transport your horse by airplane. In this case, there are a few precautions you might want to put in place:

  • Book your horse in for a check-up before traveling
  • Make sure they’re transported in a suitably-sized container specially designed for horses
  • They’ll need a pressurized environment with air conditioning.
  • Seek advice from qualified professionals on how to reduce stress without resorting to medication. 
A man riding a horse.

Top tips for traveling with your horse

  • Don’t let your horse sense your nerves, as you’ll put them on edge.
  • Avoid doing strenuous physical exercise the day before you travel.
  • Patiently teach your horse not to be afraid of the trailer. Make them walk in and out several times a day before you’re due to travel to give them a chance to get used to it.
  • The first few times, you might want to travel with another, more experienced horse, who will make your horse feel safe, and help make sure they don’t move around as much.
  • Ensure your horse stays hydrated, especially in the summer. With the high temperatures, fatigue, and stress of the journey, your horse can easily get dehydrated.
  • Insulate your trailer against warm temperatures and try to travel during the cooler hours of the day.

The health, safety and happiness of your horse should always be the top priority.