What are Travelling Problems?
There are horses that are just not good travellers to begin with. If your horse is giving you a difficult time whenever you have a reason to travel, you may need to start practicing the loading process and work your way up to travelling. Usually, the biggest problem with the event is the loading of your horse into the trailer. There are tricks to get your horse to comply if you have to leave immediately and do not have time to train; you can try having your horse follow another horse into the trailer if you have one that will load without a problem.
Another suggested way to encourage your horse to enter the trailer is by using butt roping. This is done by having two people stand on either side of the trailer holding the ends of a long rope behind your horse. When they pull the rope, slight pressure on the legs and rear end should be enough to get your horse to enter the trailer.
There are many types of travelling problems in horses. Fear of the trailer, difficulty balancing, motion sickness, and stress from a previous situation are just a few of the countless issues that could be encountered in a trailering situation. The condition may be a behavioral problem or a real medical concern that your horse is trying to tell you about. While this may not be a life and death situation, it can be serious if your horse hurts himself or others in the process. Horses are naturally afraid of new things and being put inside what they may consider a small, dark enclosure is not usually something a horse would find enjoyable.
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Symptoms of Travelling Problems in Horses
Signs that your horse is not going to be an easy traveller include:
- Increased heart rate
- Rapid breathing
- Rearing up or kicking out
- Immediately getting spooked at the sight of the trailer
- Boarding trouble
- Fear of trailering
- Travel anxiety
Causes of Travelling Problems in Horses
- Previous bad experience
- Learned misbehaviour from watching others
- Fear of the dark, enclosed space
- New trailer
Diagnosis of Travelling Problems in Horses
Diagnosing travelling problems relies on your description of the incidents. If your veterinarian comes to you, it may be good to have the veterinarian watch as you or your handler attempt to get your horse to board the trailer. In addition, the veterinarian will do a complete and thorough physical examination to rule out underlying issues. Routine blood tests such as a blood count, cultures, and biochemical analysis may be performed and the veterinarian may do a urinalysis.
Radiographs are usually not necessary, but may be done if the veterinarian suspects a limb problem that could prevent your horse from boarding the ramp or stepping into the trailer. In some cases, the veterinarian may suggest a behavioral specialist observe your horse when the attempt to trailer is made; these professionals have a keen eye for the signs that can indicate a problem.
Treatment of Travelling Problems in Horses
There are several treatments that can help your horse with travelling problems. Some of the most common include:
Training your horse to move automatically with a certain touch on the body is the best way to get your horse used to trailering and travelling. You should never use a painful discipline approach with your horse, especially with fear, because it just makes it worse. Practice entering the trailer in advance of travelling so you can get your horse used to the idea. After a few days of approaching the trailer without incident, you should be able to get your horse to travel better. Using praise and treats can also help encourage your horse to comply.
If you can get your horse desensitized to loading, travelling can be a breeze. This is a longer process and it takes some patience, but it will pay off in the long run. Place the trailer inside the yard where your horse is turned out to get used to it. Once it has been in the yard for a few days, place some hay at the bottom of the ramp. It may take a few days to get your horse to take the bait, but do not withhold food. If it is not working, try leaving a treat at the bottom of the trailer instead. Once your horse has taken the bait, keep moving the hay or treat further and further into the trailer until your horse is actually getting in there voluntarily. Continue this exercise until you are sure your horse is not afraid of the trailer anymore.
Try a Different Trailer
Sometimes it is better to use a rear-facing trailer. Many horses do better when they do not have to go head first into the trailer.
As a last resort, or if you have to travel without notice, a sedative such as xylazine may be used to relax your horse. This is usually not a good experience however, because being sedated in a moving trailer can make your horse unbalanced and afraid.
Recovery of Travelling Problems in Horses
No matter what the problem is, with time and patience you should be able to get your horse to be a better traveller. Once you are able to get your horse comfortable with the trailer, you should continue to desensitize him by going for short rides, building up the length of time on each trip.