You think you’re tired when you get home after a long day of showing? Imagine how your horse feels. In addition to the competition, he had to work during the entire ride home.
A horse isn’t simply standing in a trailer during the trip back to the barn; he’s making constant adjustments to maintain his balance through every curve and acceleration. Throw in dealing with a grumpy companion and you’ve got the makings of a potentially exhausting ride. A tired horse is more likely to be injured in a trailer as he struggles to stay on his feet, and fatigue can lower his immune function, leaving him susceptible to illness in the aftermath of the trip.
Keep all of this in mind as you plan your competition days---or any other away-from-home event. For starters, your horse needs to be fit enough to not just participate in the activity, but cope with the ride home. If he seems particularly bushed after an event, give him an hour to rest and rehydrate before loading up. Also, do your best to ensure the inside of the trailer is as comfortable as possible. Open or close vents to control the airflow and temperature and wet down any hay or bedding to reduce airborne dust particles. Then, as you drive, be mindful of stops and starts and take corners as smoothly as you can.
For particularly stressful events or long drives, consider staying overnight if that’s an option. Heading home after everyone---human and horse---has had a good night’s sleep makes for a much safer journey.
This article first appeared in the June 2017 issue (#477) of EQUUS magazine