You’re running late, your horse hasn’t had his breakfast and the show grounds are an hour away. It may seem like a smart idea to just hang his grain bucket in the trailer and let him eat on the road, but he’s better off skipping the meal entirely.
Trailering causes stress in all horses, even seasoned travelers, and is a significant trigger for gastric ulcers. Combining that stress with a grain meal, which also increases the risk of ulcers, is ill-advised. Beyond ulcers, eating in a moving trailer could cause a horse to choke, and meals in such confined quarters can spark serious and dangerous disputes between traveling companions.
While feeding grain in a trailer is a bad idea, giving a horse a bag of hay is a great one. Hay not only occupies a horse en route, but the fiber it provides can help keep his digestive system functioning well. If your horse has any history of respiratory illness or if your trip is going to be much longer than a half-hour, soak the hay before you hang it. Not only will this minimize the dust that will inevitably blow around, but it will help keep your traveling horse hydrated.
This article first appeared in EQUUS issue #458, November 2015.