Competition Season - Getting ready to travel with your horse.
by Tracey - WHP Practitioner
(Espiritu del Viento, Casares)
With all the glorious days of sunshine on the Costa del Sol, there is not a specific downtime for competition. You can find an equestrian event going on pretty much any time of the year. Polo has it´s season, as do the flat races, but dressage, jumping and endurance tend to continue all year round (with evening competitions in the summer months).
Even after years of trailering my horses I still pass every minute with my stomach in my mouth concerned for their safety, and my mind whirling over my ´list´, always wondering if I´m prepared for any and everything! If you are new to travelling with your horse I hope you will find these tips useful;
Going into the legalities of your choice of transport etc is a whole other subject. Lets presume you do have all in order and your vehicle has a solid floor and is roadworthy. Be informed of the laws regarding transportation of any animal (Bienestar del animal en el transporte) and if there are any epidemics in your area or where you are travelling to, that may require extra vaccines, or disinfection of the vehicle or horse. Your local O.C.A. is the place with the answers (Oficina Comarcal de Agricultura).
Most importantly, is your horse prepared mentally to travel? If they have not been trailered before get the groundwork done a good few weeks before your first competition. Competing can be stressful enough, without your horse being upset by the journey. At Horse livery Spain we provide very complete training in groundwork, for all aspects of horse care, travel and ridden work.
Think about the temperatures a few days, if not a week, before. You may want to start upping the salts in your horses bucket feed to be sure they are truly hydrated for the journey. Always take electrolytes with you. Even a 10 minute dressage test in the sun can require a quick pick-up of salts and minerals. Endurance, my sport, is a slightly different ballgame in the hydration department and something to discuss another time.*
Besides all the beautifying of your mount in readiness for the competition, be sure the vehicle has a fresh and deep supply of wood shavings. They are only necessary in the ´meter´ space where the hind legs of your horse will be. If your journey will include the return all in one day, then a couple of nets full of hay should suffice - Hanging one where your horse can easily reach to munch on it during the journey. Take a container with at least 10 litres of water and a bucket with you. Even a short journey could get held up in traffic (Accidents also happen) and you may need to pull off the road if your horse spends more than 4 hours in the vehicle, to be sure they don´t need a drink. An overnight stop will require much more preparation.**
Prepare the tie rings both inside and outside with a piece of bale twine tied to them. I shred my twine by thirds, as it is so thick, and I would rather the twine snapped than anything on my horse. Be sure to use them to tie your horse, and never to the actual ring. If you use a rope halter, when travelling either use the safety type that have a breakable section, or revert to the webbing type.
Most modern lorries have such great suspension that leg protection is not necessary. Travelling in a trailer is always harder on a horse, and specific travel boots are a good idea. Tail protection, if necessary due to the positioning of the tail bars in your vehicle, again, should be provided by a proper tail guard. Bandaging a tail can be looking for trouble. I know personally of a horse who lost it´s entire tail from being bandaged too tight. The circulation was cut off and the tail died. This is more common than one would like to think. With the temperatures here I would not recommend bandages for legs either. They can so easily overheat. Whereas travel boots allow for some air circulation. If there is a dark cloud on the horizon, or any time between October and May (if we´re lucky!), add a no-fill waterproof rug to supplies. Many competitions require a lot of standing around for your horse. If there are no shelters they´ll appreciate the rug putting over them, and their tack, between rounds, should the heavens open. A fleece rug and a cooler are also emergency essentials in case of chill or overheating.
A small first aid kit, containing Iodine, a thermometer, an antiseptic cream or spray and vaseline is a good idea, (along with fly sprays or cream - it is Spain!). Anything that can’t be resolved with those things requires veterinary attention anyway.
Remember, every kilometre you drive, your horse is ´blind´ and bracing itself against every bump and curve in the road. So be sure to arrive at your destination in good time to give them a couple of hours (or more) rest, depending on the distance you have travelled.*** This also gives you time to have a cup of tea or drink of water and something to eat, because your nerves didn´t allow you to have any breakfast ;) and make sure you have everything set up how you want. Do try to avoid transporting in the heat of the day. An early start and a late return has to be expected. Make sure you have prepared yourself for a long day, and anything you will need. Be sure to allow extra time for the journey as well. You will drive much slower when trailering your precious horse.
*If you are not familiar with electrolytes and how they work, please consult with someone who is. There are many types on the market, you can also make up your own - if you know what you´re doing.
** If you are staying at your destination overnight, think about your horses short feed requirements, what facilities are available for your horse - corral, stall - and if your horse is accustomed to them. Consider the bedding in a stall. If your horse usually sleeps on shavings and they have straw - remove it. Far better a slightly uncomfortable night than a colic! If you have space on your vehicle, take a sack of shavings with you just in case. Expect to provide all your horse will require to eat. Some places will provide hay, but be sure before you go.
*** There is a legal limit to 8 hours continual travel during a 24 hour period, then various rest times before travel may continue. See; Curso de Bienestar del Animal en el Transporte for full information.