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After Travel Horse Health

Despite the myriad of precautions we take to ensure your horse arrives is the best shape possible…each horse is utterly different and they all respond to the situation in varying ways. Changes in climate, feed source, water source, environment and surroundings are just some of the factors that can influence how the horse copes with a long trip.

Cases of serious illness are in the minority (less than 2%), but no matter how well a horse copes we recommend being extremely proactive in terms of after-travel care. We write this from the unique perspective of horse owners as well as professional transporters. We move our own horses too, and below are some basic steps we take after a long trip.

  • Immediately after unloading, allow the horse access to fresh water. Most horses will have a drink soon afterwards, but do not allow the horse gulp water or “over-drink” in the first 30 minutes. It is very important that they settle-in slowly.
  • Administer electrolytes such as Recharge as a precaution.
  • Allow access to hay soon afterwards. We don’t recommend hard feeding until the horse is properly settled in to the new surroundings.
  • Be aware of the horse’s previous diet. Do not change it straight away.
  • Closely monitor the horse for the first 12 hours in terms of eating, drinking and their behaviour. If this is all normal, great. If the horse seems depressed, lethargic, disinterested in food/water or in pain you should take immediate veterinary action. If in doubt, get a vet for peace of mind.

A limitation of the horse transporter is not knowing what behaviour is “normal” for the particular horse. Therefore, we can only observe it from start to finish and notify you of any changes that may indicate illness, including attitude to feed and water.

“Tucking up”

From our experience moving many thousands of interstate horses, tucking up is the most common side effect of long distance travel. It can be caused by many different things, and is generally attributed to how well the horse drinks/eats and/or copes emotionally with the journey. For example, we have seen horses travel massive distances with little sign of it, yet others will tuck up during a relatively small trip. Sometimes, no matter the precautions taken a horse will tuck up on a trip. It is a fickle condition, but generally not serious and subsides within days of settling-in after a trip.

Personally, we owned a good performance horse that would travel 3 hours to a show and look terrible (tucked up, appeared to have lost weight)…but we took basic precautions after travel and he would perform well… and look fat again 3 days after the show.

This is not veterinary advice, but observations made over many years. If you are concerned for your horse’s health, always seek vet advice.


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