Put the same thought and preparation into your trip, whether you’re hauling your 300 miles or 3,500 miles, and whether you’re going east, west, north, or south.Ready to take your horse on a riding vacation across state lines? With the advent of bigger trailers with living quarters and more storage space for horses, equines are being hauled farther and in more directions than ever before.
Put the same thought and preparation into your trip, whether you’re hauling your 300 miles or 3,500 miles, and whether you’re going east, west, north, or south.
Here, we’ll give you planning and preparation tips, plus a handy vacation-countdown checklist.
Step 1. Find Your Way
• Plan your route. To plan your route, you’ll need updated, reliable maps, even if you have a global positioning system in your tow vehicle. Find a good print map, or go online and print one out. Look for a map that shows the United States, as well as each individual state. If you use online maps, print out hard copies.
• Type up directions. Once you’ve determined your route, type up step-by-step directions in big, bold letters, and attach a copy to your tow vehicle’s sun visor for easy reference.
• Organize your information. On the front of each state map, attach contact information for state highway patrol headquarters, state veterinarians (see the Trail-Riding Resources on page 72), potential and confirmed overnight layovers, and even feed-store locations.
• Be aware of weather. One would naturally go south in the winter and north in the summer, but keep in mind that states have individual climates. Arizona and New Mexico can get cold and snowy in the mountainous regions. Texas and other warm southern states have hurricane seasons. In the Midwest, tornadoes sprout from clouds during summer months. Check weather conditions online for the latest national forecasts.
• Set hauling goals. Determine how far you’ll haul per day. Consider distance, as well as road and weather conditions. In good conditions, you should be able to haul 400 to 500 miles before an overnight layover. Be flexible; you never know when you’ll hit a detour or adverse weather conditions, even in summer.
Credit: Kent & Charlene Krone Photo
Off-highway stops are necessary to keep your horse happy. Look for
wide-open spaces for easy reloading
and turning around. Only unload him if he isn’t spooky; you don’t want a loose horse beside a busy highway.
Step 2. Book Your Layovers
• Plan overnight layovers. At least six months before you leave, plan where you’ll stop overnight; some places are booked well in advance. Note that you can also stay overnight on public lands, primarily west of the Mississippi. Call the relevant agency for information and reservations. (For contact information of overnight-stabling facilities, see the Where-to-Ride Guide on page 88; for other stabling resources, see page 18.)
• Plan backup layovers. Weather can change in an instant, delaying or even halting your progress. As you plan your layover stops, select a few others along the way to use as backups.
Call each one to find out reservation and cancelation policies, and whether the managers think they might have room for your horse on short notice. (Tip: Ask the relevant state veterinarian’s office for fairground accommodations. Many states will let you stay in a fairground stables for a day or two, which can be a blessing if you’re caught on a road late at night, in-between layovers.)
• Confirm reservations. Before you leave and while on the road, call your planned layover facilities to confirm your reservations. If you’ll be arriving late at night, make sure someone will unlock any gates and that a stall will be ready for your horse. In case you arrive later than you expected or you miss an arrival date altogether, ask the manager how long the facility will hold a stall for you.
Step 3. Pack Up
• Pack feed. Haul your horse’s feed from home, and add new feed along the way. Many states require Certified Weed Free feed. CWF feed is especially a consideration if you’ll be traveling to or through public lands managed by the National Forest Service, the National Park Service, and/or the Bureau of Land Management. Ask for a list of growers from the applicable public agency, or contact the state agriculture office.
• Pack meds. Ask your home veterinarian to help you stock your first-aid kit. Also ask him or her to prescribe any nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as phenylbutazone or flunixin meglumine) that he or she thinks your horse might need on the road. If your horse is on a special medication, make sure you have enough to cover the whole trip. Ask your vet to show you how to administer any medications.
• Pack travel papers. Make a three-ring binder with your horse’s veterinary records from the last two years, so a veterinarian in another state will know your horse’s history. This information can be lifesaving. For interstate travel, make sure all your traveling papers are in order. (For more information, see “Papers, Please” below.)
Step 4: Be Road Savvy
• Check your rig. Several months before you go, perform a maintenance check on your tow vehicle and trailer. Allow enough time for any required major repairs.
• Arrange for emergency roadside service. Sign up for a comprehensive emergency roadside service that covers trailers. We recommend USRider Equestrian Motor Plan, The Trail Rider’s sister company (800/844-1409; www.usrider.org).
• Let your horse breathe. Avoid filling your trailer’s manger or hay net to the top; your horse needs room to breathe freely. When you tie him, leave enough slack so that he can lower his head even with his withers; he’ll need to rest his neck and clear his airways. However, don’t leave so much slack that he could catch a hoof in the rope.
• Stay in touch. Communications is a must when hauling long-distance. Charge up your cellphone, and pack a car charger. (Note that you won’t have reception in all areas.) If you’re driving in tandem with those in another vehicle, consider two-way radios, reliable for short-range use. Also consider taking along your laptop computer; if you can find Internet access, a wealth of travel-related information will be at your fingertips.
• Find a vet. To find a veterinarian on the road, visit the website of the American Association of Equine Practitioners (www. aaep.org), click on the “Horse Owners” icon, then click on “Find a Veterinarian.”
• Find a farrier. To find a farrier on the road, visit the website of the American Farriers Association (http://american farriers.org/find-a-farrier/).
• Stop to rest. Off-highway stops are necessary to keep your horse happy. Look for wide-open spaces for easy reloading and turning around. Truck stops can do in a pinch. Drive to a quiet area, and check on your horse. Open the feed door, talk to him, and let him look around. He’ll appreciate the break. Only unload him if he isn’t spooky; you don’t want a loose horse beside a busy highway. While you’re stopped, clean out your trailer, and refill the manger or hay net.
• Offer water. Offer your horse water at all rest stops. Keep track of how much water he drinks; a horse needs about 10 to 30 gallons of water per day to stay hydrated and healthy. If your horse won’t drink after 12 hours, he’s at risk for dehydration. To tempt him to drink unfamiliar water, add an eight-ounce can of apple juice per one gallon of water. (Tip: Do this at home a few times before you leave to accustom him to the apple flavor.) Another technique: Blend water you brought from home with the local water source to disguise the taste difference. If your horse refuses to drink in the trailer, plan extra “watering” stops.
• Stay on schedule. If you’re off on travel time, plan to stay at the layover facility an extra day or two to get back on schedule and/or to notify facilities down the road. And plan an “off-hauling day” to give your horse a chance to relax outside the trailer while you catch up on shopping, check road conditions, make last-minute layover arrangements, and even do laundry.
Bonnie Davis of Pleasanton, California, is an internationally published equine journalist and
The Trail Rider’s consulting editor. She gives presentations, lectures, and workshops on horse camping, multiuse trail development, and gentle-use trail management.