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How to travel with the horse?
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Let’s start with the means of transport
The main means of transport for transferring horses for long journeys, up to the appearance of the railway and internal combustion engines, was on boats, by river or by sea, as did the conquistadors who reintroduced the horse in the Americas crossing an entire ocean.
From the mid-1800s the horse began to be transported by rail and, from the early 1900s, motorized vehicles appeared that were designed to transport horses by land.
Instead of air transport, there is only a trace after the First World War.
The most widespread form of transport today is undoubtedly on rubber as it is best suited to the needs of the horse.
With the use of trailers or vans, long journeys are divided into several stops, modifying the stops for the tranquility and health of the animals transported, unlike other means of transport, such as the train, where it is not possible to stop the journey in case of nervousness of the horse or small emergencies.
How to travel with the horse. Carry the Horse
It is important to remember that moving is a source of stress for the horse and only trained people know how to limit suffering, dehydration or transport infections.
The transport of horses is as old as the history of the horse itself: the ancient Egyptians transported horses on boats along the Nile, but then as now, horse transport is a rather complicated activity.
In ancient times it was preferred to breed and train new ones rather than transporting their horses, with all the related unknowns.
Later the transport developed for commercial reasons but what spread the practice was the war.
The warhorse, like the soldiers, indeed carried long transports to the battle sites.
Today the athlete horse is very often transported to participate in sporting events and it is therefore important to understand how much transport affects its performance.
To understand this, it is enough to remember that a horse, however well trained, is an animal that does not stand conditions and new places.
To this we add that transport is stress and fatigue because, during a journey, the horse is subjected to continuous muscular efforts to find the correct balance for accelerations, braking and curves.
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How to travel with the horse. The rules
Although there is no rule valid for every horse, the short-term transport of subjects accustomed to transfers does not worsen the performance while longer transports, over 4 hours, could have effects on his athletic ability even if there are subjects whose performances remain unaffected even after long transfers.
This does not mean that the horse has not suffered in transport but only that it has not affected its sports performance and at the end of the journey it will need to rest before participating in the competition.
Rest is necessary to recover the energy spent during transport, to settle in, to become familiar with new places, new smells, new noises and to allow the horse to drink because during the journey the horse tends not to drink, with risk of dehydration.
So, as soon as we arrive, we will have to take a ride around the horse to allow it to become familiar with the surrounding environment and set up a comfortable environment with food and, above all, water.
Only after a well-deserved rest will the horse be able to take part in the competition.
How to travel with the horse. The fear of transport
The horse is a neophobic animal, that is, it is afraid of new things and, for this reason, it faces the transport with great difficulties, especially the first ones, which will tire it out just because they are new experiences.
To better understand, let’s put ourselves in the shoes of a horse, an escape animal and fearful by nature, where a dark van awaits, of which it does not know the possible dangers, and to climb it must face a ramp whose stability is questioned by the strange noise it emits.
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As soon as he enters he finds new ground and during the journey he suffers continuous shocks, he smells new, even very loud unknown sounds without understanding what is happening.
Certainly a trained horse will soon understand that there is nothing serious during a transport but, being an activity against its nature, it will never be completely relaxed.
How to travel with the horse. Transport stress
As we have seen, transport is a strong stress for the horse, a stress that can be divided into four: the transport vehicle, the external environment, the driver and the horse itself.
The vehicle for transporting the horse must obviously be suitable for its transport, comfortable, quiet, without excessive noise coming from the engine, shock absorbers or other charged objects, well soundproofed especially from traffic noise, because a noisy vehicle generates fear and, not being able to escape, the horse could kick and go wild.
Furthermore you need to make sure that the exhaust gases and the smell of the fuel are not too strong, so as not to make the horse nervous or to poison him!
Temperature is another very important element because stress increases the horse’s body temperature and, being in a closed environment, there is a risk that it will reach too high a temperature.
For this reason the vehicle must also have good thermal insulation and constant ventilation, not too strong but not very weak, to avoid the classic transport fever, dehydration and other problems related to the incorrect temperature such as fever and heat stroke and today There are professional air-conditioned vehicles.
Furthermore the vehicle must be welcoming, ensure the right space and allow the horse to position correctly to avoid transport injuries.
The noises of the external environment, of the road are a hard test for every horse and, for this reason, the words HORSES appear on the horses transport vehicles, inviting motorists not to play the horn, which could make the horse try to escape with the risk of even serious injuries.
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How to travel with the horse. Let’s continue
Added to this are the road conditions that can affect the tranquility of the horse as on a bumpy road the horse is forced to constantly change its balance, therefore bumps that cause disturbance and irritation.
The driver, a very important but often overlooked voice, must have patience and time to pick up the horse on the van because hurrying his ascent with abrupt or violent methods will have counterproductive effects throughout the journey.
The driver’s calm and patience must continue driving because the comfort of the horse during the journey is largely determined by the driving style of the driver, who will brake and accelerate in a gentle and modular way without forgetting that he is transporting an animal into feet and with not optimal adherence.
He will also have to plan the stops for the trip and will be able to recognize and manage unexpected critical moments.
It should be remembered that the horse with previous negative experiences will experience severe stress and only after many other journeys will he find a minimum of tranquility.
Finally, the horse’s state of health must be optimal since otherwise the risk of worsening of symptoms and the appearance of severe fevers may occur.
How to travel with the horse. Transport trauma
We will never tire of remembering that the horse cannot bear to be transported.
Even if a good training can make transport seem like a routine activity, if it could, the horse would gladly avoid it because, besides being in an environment that is not ideal for him – a dark, unknown, and noisy place – small and large are added trauma during transport.
The traumas begin in the ascent in the van, above all in the unaccustomed subjects, even if the greater part of the trauma from transport happens during the trip.
Usually the van driver greatly reduces his pace but often it is not enough. Imagine that we are in the van, standing, unable to see the road and with horseshoes under our shoes: it would be practically impossible to stand.
In the same way the horse is forced to regain balance continuously due to braking, acceleration and curves and it is very likely that it will strike the surfaces of the van incurring traumas such as abrasions and bruises, which occur more frequently in the limbs and back, due to traumatic contact and continuous rubbing against walls and partitions.
For this reason it is advisable to use protective harnesses for transport, such as padding for the legs and protections for the tail, even if the best preventive protection is the use of a means of transport with adequate space and the best protections available. .
However, the dangers to the health of the horse during transport are not limited to traumas because the most difficult to diagnose quickly and most important is dehydration.
As we have already said, the horse does not drink during the journey but, since the horse tends to overheat and sweat, the transport involves a great loss of liquids and in very long transports the risk of dehydration of the animal is very high.
It is therefore very important to foresee stops where the horse can come down to rest and, above all, to make him drink.
Dehydration is a subtle danger because the horse does not risk dying of thirst but it can activate a series of ugly accessory consequences that make it suffer and make it less shiny and reactive, essential qualities to maintain balance during transport, in addition to increasing the risk of colic or laminitis, a disease that affects the horse’s foot.
Transport could also lead to a general weakening of the horse’s immune system, therefore more exposed to infectious diseases and infections.
So it is a good habit to always clean the vehicle at its best also because the presence of straw and feces, with the air vortices generated during the journey, can generate annoying problems with the respiratory system.
The incidence of infectious diseases following a transport is rather high, the longer the journey is and the greater the risk of contracting diseases, to the point that the term “transport fever” is born and, to reduce the risk, maximum cleaning and hygiene of the vehicle and correct ventilation of the van is required.
How to travel with the horse. During the trip
For almost all horses, transport is a difficult, critical and tiring time and it is therefore necessary the horse be well rested before starting a journey.
As we have already said, during transport the horse will find itself for several hours in a narrow space with no possibility of moving, feeling strong smells and noises strange for him and undergoing bouncing that he will have to face in solitude, a situation that in itself is a source of stress.
We know that the horse is an animal that consumes a lot of food and a lot of water but, in the case of transport, the stress immediately affects feeding and watering.
Therefore it is advisable not to overdo the doses during the journey, or in the moments immediately preceding, also because the animal should not be tired with an important digestion that would contribute to further increase its body temperature, already elevated by stress, as we have seen in the other paragraphs.
Instead it is very important to make the horse drink systematically before and during a transport by planning stops, also to avoid dangerous cases of dehydration.
We arrived at the end of our tips on how to how to travel with the horse and hopefully they will be useful to you.
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