If you’ve ever gone on an extended vacation—more than a week, let’s say—you know how challenging it can be to pack. Now think about taking your horse on the road for more than a few days. It’s exhausting just thinking about all of the gear you need to bring to keep your horse—or team of horses—healthy, happy and well-fed during that time.
Yet many of us regularly do take extended trips with horses. Every fall, more than 23,500 horses spend up to three weeks in residence at the Ohio Expo Center for the All American Quarter Horse Congress. The Devon Horse Show runs for 10 days; the World’s Championship Horse Show is on for eight days; the Olympics go on for weeks. And even if you’re not competing, it’s not unheard of to hit the trail for an extended time away from home with your horse.
Traveling with your horse can be fun—but it can also be challenging to your horse’s overall health, and especially to the digestive system. Here’s a look the issues and seven pro tips for managing your horses well away from home.
Traveling Can Create Challenges for Your Horse’s Digestive System
… often we put our horses in less-than-ideal scenarios that can wreak havoc on their digestive systems…
If traveling with your horse equates to leisurely trail riding and plenty of turnout, great! But more often we put our horses in less-than-ideal scenarios that can wreak havoc on their digestive systems, including:
- Stall confinement
- Little—or no—turnout
- A busy barn environment
- Different water, buckets or feeding tubs
- A different daily schedule
- Classes, workshops or clinics scheduled at different times
- Aggressive stall neighbors or pasture mates
All of these micro-aggressions can do a real number on horses’ GI health. When horses are confined to stalls rather than out in the pasture, it’s harder for them to get the forage they need to keep the digestive system working as it should. And when the digestive system is disrupted—by a crazy schedule, a challenging barn environment, or simply being in an unfamiliar spot—it can have serious implications for your horse’s health and performance.
Traveling doesn’t have to be an issue for your horse or team of horses. Luckily, there are ways to minimize the impact of being on the road for long stretches at the time.
Pro Tips for Extended Horse Show Stays
#1: Pack your own feed and water.
Consistency is key. Bring enough feed from home to get you to your destination, and order the rest to arrive just after you do, so you don’t have to switch feed suddenly. Bring enough feed for the duration of the trip, plus two days’ worth in case of emergency or travel delays.
Also consider bringing water from home—and your own buckets. Start gradually mixing your home water with your destination’s water to get your horses used to the taste, or teach them to drink water with flavoring in it to mask the taste of unfamiliar water. Test ahead of time to see what your horse prefers; options to consider could include cherry drink mix, apple juice, gatorade or even beer.
#2: Be organized.
If you have a horse with special diet needs, consider packing their feed rations into gallon-sized Ziploc bags, labeled with the contents and time of day it’s intended for.
#3: Feed well on the road.
Make sure your horses don’t become dehydrated by installing water buckets at a safe height in the trailer for on-the-road hydration. If that’s not possible, stop and unload every hour or two to offer water. Also offer free-choice hay during travel via appropriately-hung hay nets. The forage will help keep your horse’s digestive system working while traveling.
#4: Do your best to stick to a schedule.
Yes, it’s hard to do that when your scheduled time to access the arena is smack-dab in the middle of feeding time. But do your best—and you can always rely on hay to tide your horses over until feeding time (and in fact, your horse should always have forage in his stomach).
#5: Feed first, exercise second.
Horse people love to argue over whether you should feed horses before or after work, if a wonky schedule demands choosing one over the other. While you always want to provide free-choice hay, if you have the choice to feed first, do so. Your horses will likely be happier—and more likely to work well for you. (Horses get “hangry” too!)
#6: Incorporate lots of activity.
You’re probably on the road for a specific purpose—a horse show, or a competition. But if your horses’ normal turnout is compromised, get creative. Bring a lunge line, hand-walk your horse, hand-graze your horse, or turn them out in a safely contained area, such as an arena. And if you can, stick to the same schedule as normal. Horses are creatures of habit that love to have a routine to settle into.
#7: Be prepared in case of emergency.
Even with the most careful care and attention, things can still happen, especially away from home. Before you head out of town, find a local veterinarian near the competition grounds who you can call in case of emergency. Establish that relationship ahead of time. Save yourself the late night panic to find the care your horse needs (and your vet an off-hours call for a recommendation).
Feed SUCCEED for a Healthier Horse While Traveling
Feeding SUCCEED Digestive Conditioning Program can help your horse be at his healthiest while on the road. A proprietary formula of nutritional ingredients, SUCCEED is a digestive health supplement that can help you manage your horse’s digestive health, including his stomach and hindgut. It’s backed by rigorous scientific studies and is available in two easy-to-feed options.
Equine health starts in the digestive tract. So when your horse’s digestive tract is compromised by an off-kilter schedule, a challenging training block, or a disruptive travel schedule, you can rely on SUCCEED to help maintain digestive wellness. When your horse feels good, he performs better, making SUCCEED an integral part of his overall health.
Still on the fence? Take our risk-free SUCCEED Challenge for a 60-day supply of SUCCEED. See positive results, or it’s free!
Or see what other horse people have to say about SUCCEED. Many of the professional horse people who travel with their horses frequently use SUCCEED to bolster their travel routines, giving an extra dose before travel to keep their horses looking—and feeling—at their best, even while on the road.