When daylight hours are so short in the winter, many of us getting out and about with our horses this season will be loading and unloading in the dark and often in poor weather. We’ve put together some top tips for travelling horses as safely as possible.
1) Plan ahead of your journey
Before any journey always ensure that all lights on the trailer or horsebox are working correctly. You should plan a route which takes into consideration any issues due to winter weather, such as avoiding flooding or untreated roads. Always tell someone where you are going and what time you are planning to be back, especially if travelling alone. Ensuring that you have adequate breakdown cover is also a reassurance, particularly if travelling for a long distance. Avoiding travel during periods of extreme weather is highly advisable.
2) Pack essential items
Along with the normal essential items such as a first aid kit, spare equipment, water and hay you should also carry a torch (with spare batteries) and hi-vis for you and your horse. Additional food for both yourself and your horse is advisory in case of breakdowns. Spare warm, waterproof clothing for yourself and spare rugs for the horse will also come in handy if you are both caught in wet weather. All equipment should be stored as tidily as possible for it to be grabbed quickly when needed.
3) Lighting in the trailer or horsebox
Soft lighting is best in the trailer or horsebox, despite horses being able to see better in the dark than we do. A nice, ambient light will help horses to settle – streetlights and passing car headlights can spook and unsettle some horses so a soft light will detract from that. Lighting the trailer/horsebox also means that horses aren’t suddenly thrown in to bright lights when they reach their destination.
4) Find a safe spot for loading and unloading
Try to load and unload in a flat, open area that offers minimal risks for horse to knock themselves if they won’t load. Light the area and the horsebox/trailer as much as you can and if possible don’t load the horse on concrete – try to find ground with some give, especially if the horse is tired.
5) Keeping the horse comfortable
Despite cold weather, the trailer or horsebox should be kept well ventilated during travel. When considering how to rug your horses for travel, treat each one as an individual – rug to suit your horse’s clip, whether your horse feels the cold and give thought to how your horse travels – if he is the type to get hot and sweaty while travelling, be careful not to over rug him. If a few horses are travelling together, shared body heat will help to keep them warm,
Dehydration is also an important consideration – many horses will not drink as much during the winter, so offering water regularly is important. Adding apple juice or another preferred flavouring to water may help to encourage the horse.