Transport of Horses and Ponies
It is not uncommon that horses or ponies booked in for appointments at the clinic turn up late or not at all. The cause of this default is usually failure of transport. Either the animal will not load; the lorry won't start; the brakes of the trailer have seized or the person who was to provide the transport has let the owner down. Occasionally these incidents can have a funny side and appointments can be rebooked. However it is no laughing matter if the horse or pony needs urgently to be transported for emergency surgery or treatment. We not infrequently become involved in nightmarish situations where we are trying to help owners facilitate transport at night where time is critically important.
I feel that it is essential that owners plan for such emergencies in the hope that they will never happen. For those of us who have a lorry or trailer it is good practice to ensure that the vehicles are roadworthy and legal with brakes, batteries and electrics that work and good tyres. Making sure that you always have at least half a tank of fuel permanently on board can avoid a frantic search for a filling station in the small hours of the morning.
If you have no transport of your own, find the number of local hauliers who can provide a 24-hour service. For non-emergency trips, such firms can often be persuaded to share loads with other clients to reduce costs. If you have a good friend who will help you in an emergency make sure that you are VERY nice to them in case you end up testing their friendship to the limit.
Please make sure that your animal is good to load. There are some animals that are terrible at loading and in these cases: -
a) You will know about it and
b) You may have exceptional strategies to deal with this.
If you do not compete at shows you may have little cause to travel them normally, but it is important that you can. Start animals young and try not to have battles with them. Feed them in the vehicle; let them walk in and out and praise them. Commence by taking them for short non - stressful journeys and always drive defensively so they are not hurled about by sudden braking, acceleration or by Formula One cornering! It is better to aggravate the cars following you, than frighten the animal; so get used to being unpopular (you will be able to get your own back when you are following caravans).
Generally speaking horses and ponies travel very well and seem to concentrate on their balance. Usually they travel better in lorries then trailers, as they are more stable. If you want to test this out try travelling in a horse trailer for a couple of miles (bearing in mind that it is illegal) and you will see what I mean.
It is generally understood now that animals fare well when travelling facing backwards, so if you are buying a lorry, see if it can be accommodated to achieve this.
When travelling with a trailer always put a single animal in the offside stall, or when taking two animals put the heavier individual on the offside as this makes the trailer much more stable taking into account the camber of the road.
Ventilation in transport is usually compromised so ensure that you have plenty of windows open to allow airflow and reduce dust and ammonia fumes. I personally do not favour leaving animals with hay-nets in transit as they intake excessive dust and fungal spores and I have known quite a few instances where the animal has suffered choke during journeys. If you are travelling for long distances you should be stopping every 3 - 4 hours to let the animal off for them to stretch and have some food and water.
If during the journey there is noise and commotion in the back that suggests that something is going on, PLEASE do not stop by side of the road and open the jockey door to investigate. This can be very dangerous for you and potentially catastrophic if a frightened horse or pony tries to force itself out through this small door. Instead, drive to a safe place where you can get help and where the animal can be offloaded if necessary. The hard shoulder is not the place for this!!!
Transport can be a challenge but the aim is to minimise stress for all concerned. Oh! and don't forget your mobile phone; your reading glasses; a pen; your credit card; a map and your medication and wherever possible a companion - it is always nice to have someone to blame when you get lost!!!
P.S. As from January 5, many people will need a vehicle/trailer certificate and State Veterinary Service (SVS) authorisation to transport horses - click here for details.