"Thank you for your after-care service, I am very very impressed to say the least. The phone call from you today following up on my horses progress has won my business."
- Sue from Gardenvale Stud
Every year we get many calls from floating accidents and whilst some are just bad luck, others could have been prevented.
Here are some important factors to consider when traveling with horses:
Floating can be a very scary experience for some horses if they have never done it before. Even if they have floated before, a bad experience can make them very difficult to travel with again.
If your horse has floated before, check to see what kind of float this was and what kind of experiences they had in it. Some horses prefer angle-load floats or trucks because they appear bigger inside.
If your horse has only traveled before in an angle-loading float or truck, be wary of traveling them in a straight-loading float as they may try and go forward and through the window. We have seen a few of these accidents now and they are very scary for both owner and horse. If you have to travel them in a straight load float for the first time and/or they are nervous, consider covering the window to make them feel more enclosed and so they can't see a way out.
Some horses prefer to travel with a friend and others prefer to go solo. Unfortunately there's no hard and fast rule when it comes to this as each horse is an individual, so if it is possible you can try traveling both ways to see which they prefer.
There are many measures owners put in place to ensure that their horse is safe when traveling, including the wearing of rugs and floating boots.
if you do wish to rug them, check it will not be too hot and cause them to overheat. Make sure that there is nothing on the rug which could get stuck on the float and cause your horse to panic
Make sure that the boot fits the horse's leg properly. If it is too loose it may slip and be useless as a safety measure (or dangerous), or if it is too tight it may cause them pain and discomfort.
There are a range of commercial floating boots, with some that just protect the cannon bone, and others that protect from the hoof to the hock.
Just be careful if your horse is not used to boots. Try them on and walk him around with them on at various times before the actual day of travel to ensure that he is used to wearing them. Also try the first time with just front boots on, as this is less likely to panic him than having all of his legs booted
*Not all horses need float boots. Even our own horses differ on this point as some float with them and others do not.
Many people who float horses haven't been given correct, if any, instruction on the differences when driving with a float on. Bad floating experiences are a reason so many horses become float-shy and refuse to load.
Sometimes long-distance horse travel is unavoidable, as unpleasant as it can be. But there are a few things that can be done ensure both you and your horse arrive refreshed and without too many dramas.
Avoid giving your horse food and water whilst traveling in the float. A horse is designed to graze with its head down, thus feeding/drinking with their head up can cause it to get colic. Horses cannot simply throw up if they're ill, so for them this can lead to a life-threatening colic. So you are not worried about your horse's food and water intake, feed and water them before and after the trip, and during any stops made.
The stopping frequency and time generally depends on the distance you're traveling and how hot it is. The general rule many go by is to stop every 4-6 hours, for at least 30 minutes (This is when you should be feeding your horse).
*If you're traveling during a hot day then you'd probably want to stop at least every 4 hours and ensure that your horse gets plenty to drink, and is possibly hosed/bucketed down with water.
If possible, leave the horse's lead longer so he can put his head down to reduce travel illness. But you must make sure it is not too long so that he can't:
a)try to turn around
b)get caught on dividers, etc.
c)annoy/bite another horse if traveling together
If traveling interstate check the livestock regulations (well-before the trip) for the state you're traveling into. In most states now you have to fill out forms and pass through "tick gates" where your horse is sprayed against ticks and mites.
Travel Sickness is a life-threatening respiratory illness which can occur as a result of travel. It is more common on longer trips but has been known to occur on trips of 2hrs. It is important to observe your horse for a few days after a trip, looking for any signs of vague depression, a rise of temperature, being off colour and/ or off feed, or coughing with or without nasal discharge. If you see these signs occurring it is important to contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.
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