As you pull into a rest stop on your next long trailer haul, eager to visit the ladies' room and the vending machines, take a minute to tend to your horse's needs as well. During a short stop on a journey, it might be best not to unload, particularly if it's a high-traffic area or there is a chance the horses may not load easily again. But even with the horses still loaded, you can do a few things to make them more comfortable.
- Offer each horse a drink of water. There is no risk of a horse drinking too much while on the road.
- Check hay nets to make sure they are sufficiently filled and not sagging toward knee level.
- Inspect any boots or wraps to make sure they haven't slipped down or become loose. If you can safely reach leg wear to make adjustments, do so. If not, try to remove any dangerous items and make replacements at the next unloading stop.
- Reposition fly masks and other headgear that has shifted.
- Check the length of the restraints to make sure the horses have adequate room to lower their heads. Recent research found that cross-tying during shipping greatly increases the chance of respiratory illness.
- Remove manure, if feasible. If you can reach manure safely, do a little housekeeping. Put the manure in a sack (an empty feedbag works well), close it up and take it with you so you won't be leaving an unwelcome mess for other rest-stop users. Removing manure reduces your horses' exposure to bacteria and pathogens.
- Assess the ventilation. If the back of the trailer seems hot and/or stuffy, open windows or vents. Condensation on the inside of a trailer is also a sign of poor ventilation.
This article originally appeared in EQUUS magazine in March 2003.