Traveling with horses is hard. Before last year, I didn’t truly know the difference between a weekend barrel race and hitting three to four rodeos in one week. I quickly learned that the usual load em’ up and go technique wasn’t going to cut it.
As the miles add up, the horses wear out just like we do. Whether your going to a jackpot or hitting a string of rodeos; these tips will help keep your horses feeling good and ready to work.
How to Take Care of a Horse (the Tips)
1. Water. Water. Water
I’m sure you already know this, but water intake is crucial. It’s important to monitor how much your horse is drinking and allow access to clean water as much as possible. I realize it’s easy to say that your horse needs to drink 5-10 gallons a day, but how do you get them to actually do it?
If your horse is not drinking enough water while on the road, there are a few methods to encourage them to drink more.
First, horses are extremely sensitive to smells and foreign tastes. My horses primarily drink out of a pond while at home; so they tend to turn their nose up at city chlorinated water. If this is also the case for you, a Camco Water Filter may be just what you need. The filter comes in a little tube that can be attached to the end of a hose;which makes it super handy. It essentially removes the chlorine, aluminum, heavy metals, hydrogen sulfide, lead and mercury from the water and leaves it tasting pure and more likely to be consumed by the horse.
You can also try bringing along a zip lock full of sweet feed, to put in the bottom of a water bucket. This will give the water a sweet flavor and they’ll also enjoy getting a little treat when they get to the bottom. If you’re worried about using this method for a prolonged time, you can always offer the “sweet water” for a couple of hours and then replace it with normal water.
Lastly, if all else fails you can dunk hay in the water bucket and have them fish it out or soak it and then put it in a tub. Although, the horse won’t get all the water it needs; it will at be better than none at all. The soaked hay will also be less likely to cause compaction in the gut.
A horse (not drinking enough water) will likely experience:
- excess sweating, then stop sweating completely.
- lethargic behavior
- dry gums
- weak pulse
- sunken eyes
- cool extremities
A good way to check for dehydration is to pinch the skin; if it immediately flattens then your horse is most likely properly hydrated. If not, then there is a good possibility your horse is dehydrated.
2. Feed and Nutrition
Another very important aspect to keeping your horse’s energy up, is to make sure they are getting enough digestible energy from their feed.
One great way to do this is to provide your horse with quality hay and feed. You can look at the guaranteed analysis on your current horse feed and look at things like protein and fat content. Essentially, if you are hauling very hard you may want to bump these contents up.
It can also be beneficial to supplement iron or b-12. However, this is something you may only want to do during performance season. Over supplementation can cause problems of its own.
One energy product to consider is red cell.
Stress also plays a huge role on the well being of your horse while traveling.
One of the most common stress related factors in performance horses are gastric ulcers. While on the trailer, the horse’s gastric acids get bounced around a lot; which can contribute to ulcers. An easy fix for this is to provide hay in the trailer to help absorb some of the acids and reduce irritation.
Another very common aspect of stress in horses is separation anxiety. This is especially true with young unseasoned horses. Because horses are herd animals it takes time for them to become accustomed to heading out alone. It is best to slowly ease them into solidarity or provide a travel buddy for comfort; this could ideally be your backup horse.
While picking places to stop for the night, it makes all the difference in the world to make sure your horses will feel safe and comfortable. You can add extra shavings to a stall to provide comfortable bedding, stall your horses next to each other, and establish a predictable routine.
If your horses are used to being fed at 7 am while at home, try to stick to the schedule as close as possible while on the road. Horses are creatures of habit and take immense comfort in their routine. If you don’t show up for normal breakfast time, you can bet your horse will probably be pacing his stall when you finally get there.
Horses under stress can show numerous different signs. Stress, horses can handle in different ways. Some may become lethargic, while others become panicky, but all will most likely suffer during their performance.
If stress is still an issue for your horse, you can talk to your veterinarian about a sedative or calming supplement such as AniMed Vita Calm
4. Wear and Tear on the Body
All the miles on the trailer and the back to back runs will have your horse’s body crying out for some TLC. There are so many ways help maintain your horses physical condition, but I’ll go ahead and give you a handful of ideas.
One of the easiest and cheapest ways to help your horse out after a run is to give their legs a good hose down. I’m not talking about a quick rinse to get the sweat off, but a thorough wash with the water pressure spraying directly on each leg for at least a couple of minutes. Cold water therapy will not only cool the legs off, but bring down any possible swelling and ease aches and pains.
During the actual trailer ride, wrapping the legs is a wonderful idea to keep them cool and tight. This should help your horse jump off the trailer with a spring in his step. Wrapping will also support the tendons and ligaments while the trailer is bouncing around. Once product that goes really well under a wrap is Sore-no-more poultice. After putting the poultice on the legs you can wet a paper towel to wrap around the leg to go under the wrap. This will keep the poultice damp for an extended time, allowing it to work longer.
Other considerations include Back on Track products and Soft Ride boots.
5. Hot and Cold Weather
Inclement weather is a pain…. Horses don’t enjoy being in it anymore than we do. Although, they are much better equipped to handle it, expect your horse’s performance to suffer if he has been standing out in the sun all day in 100 degree heat, sweating away. Same thing goes for freezing his tail off.
Horse heat stress is a real thing and can be very dangerous. Your horse could even get to the point were a heat stroke is possible. In these hot conditions, there may not be a whole lot you can do, but try to get them off the pavement if possible. Shade tends to be scarce at rodeos, but do what you can. If nothing else, you can always wash your horse off several times to help maintain a desirable body temperature.
In the bitter cold try to find shelter or at least position your trailer to be a wind block. Provide a blanket if necessary and give an extra helping of hay. Horses generate a lot of heat from their digestive system, so this is one of the most beneficial methods of keeping your horse warm.