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How To Make Horse Transportation Less Stressful and Safer

Updated: Jan 25, 2023

Less stressful transportation should decrease the incidence of traumatic injuries, dehydration, and pleuropneumonia.

Minor abrasions may be prevented by soft wrapping about the halter, leg and tail bandaging, taping or boots over shoes, a longer tie rope, protective screens between horses, a vehicle with adequate ceiling height, solid flooring, and no exposed sharp objects. Stressed horses will decrease their water intake. The resulting dehydration may lead to blood flow abnormalities to the hooves, large colon impaction, and decreased renal function. Preventive measures include not changing shoeing status prior to travel, adding frog support to high-risk animals, reducing carbohydrate intake during transport, putting apple flavor in the water, or giving mineral oil or electrolyte-enriched water via nasogastric tube prior to transport. Short stops are recommended every 4-6 hours and overnight stops every 12-16 hours. Oral electrolytes and water can be given via nasogastric tube to the mildly or moderately dehydrated horse. Traveling horses are predisposed to pleuropneumonia because of hay in a net or manger at nostril level, poor ventilation, noxious gases from the vehicle, and cross-tying heads. Reducing respiratory stress could be accomplished by feeding wet feed on the ground, using the "log-and-rope" method to secure the head to allow more head movement. Horses should not be shipped when on phenylbutazone or corticosteroids.

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