Lorry and trailer travel is a situation that doesn’t suit horses too well – they’re confined, have restricted access to roughage, head held at chest height for prolonged periods, have to try and keep their balance as the driver maneuvers turns, roundabouts etc, and finally their visual field is compromised. This all makes for a stressful situation for a horse and increases their risk of developing travel sickness and suffering from gut upset, colic or developing gastric ulcers.
Recent research has shown that when horses experience stress and anxiety, it results in an increased flow of gastric acid that can result in acid ‘burn’ and reddening of the stomach lining, particularly around the oesophageal inlet. In turn, this can cause a reflux ‘burn’, not to mention a great deal of discomfort.
There are a number of steps you can take to minimise the risk of the above mentioned problems occurring and ensure that the experience of travel is as stress free as possible for your equine.
From twelve to one hour prior to travel, ensure that your horse has had ample opportunity to graze and move about freely, if at all possible. If that isn’t possible, allow them some free time for movement in a round yard or arena and allow them access to ad lib roughage such as hay. Then, 60-30 minutes prior to travel, provide the horse with a small meal of lightly dampened chaff or hay (4 litres) and 3 tablespoons of herb or other ingredient with a high mucilage content, such as chia seeds, fenugreek, or marshmallow root as this will help to coat and buffer the stomach against acid burn and irritation during travel.
During travel, allow the horse access to hay that is tied below chest height so that they can eat with their airways facing downward. Provide enough hay for them to eat throughout the journey and ensure that it is lightly dampened to reduce dust and debris from entering the airways. Allowing them to eat throughout travel will help to minimise the risk of health problems associated with the journey as well as help to keep their stress in check.
Once arriving at your destination provide the horse with a repeat of the pre-travel meal, which will help to keep their stomach protected and their gut settled and functioning optimally. When returning home, repeat this process again.
**Bonus Benefit: Horses are more settled when they have a routine. By having a consistent pre-travel routine in place, you can help to ensure that they will travel calmly – hopefully arriving at their destination healthy, relaxed and safe.