Hauling Stress – Part 3
70% of the immune system is contained in the digestive tract. The immune system is the key to optimum health. It protects your horse from the diseases that can commonly spread when so many horses are in such close proximity at large events.
The stress of hauling and new environments can weaken the immune system, so it is critical to understand what is ‘normal’ for your horse. Taking their temperature is often a great way to evaluate how your horse is feeling. The standard rectal temperature range falls between 99-101°F or 37.2-38.3°C. Find out what is the typical temperature while at home so you know what is uncharacteristic when traveling. Be sure to get a temperature reading once you arrive at the destination.
It is prudent to make sure your horse has been adequately vaccinated in the past with the core vaccines. It is NOT recommended to vaccinate within the 21 days prior to major stress like hauling, competition, change of stabling environment and surgery (including castration). The immune system is busy trying to mount an antibody response to the vaccine(s), so it will be ill equipped to handle actual infection. It is also crucial to not over-vaccinate, as this can deplete the immune system as well.
For young Futurity horses and those that get very rattled by travel, a beneficial nutritional supplement is L-Lysine. It is key to calcium absorption, building muscle protein, boosting the immune system and supporting the body’s production of hormones, enzymes and antibodies. This proactive approach will help when your horse is exposed to infectious illnesses while under stress.
It is also difficult to handle an inflammatory, high grain diet as well as the invasion of viruses, bacteria and protozoa all at the same time, so make sure your feed program is an asset to the body.
A change in weather or temperature while traveling is often overlooked as something that can affect equine health A significant drop or rise in temperature can have a negative impact a horse’s performance. Before traveling, look at future weather patterns to note significant changes.
If you are hauling to an event with warmer temperatures, carefully monitor your horse’s water intake before and after traveling. During hot weather, provide adequate cool downs after exercise and consider placing a fan in front of the stall.
When traveling to an event with colder temperatures, be sure to take an appropriate weight sheet or blanket to maintain adequate body temperature at night. Consider packing a wool cooler to keep your horse warm before and after exercise.
Colder weather can make horses hesitant to both eat and drink, which means monitoring your horse’s feed and water consumption is very important. Horses are often hesitant to drink out of an icy or frozen water source, and you may need to break a layer of ice in order to get them to drink.
It is hard to avoid the stresses of hauling with a competitive horse. They are finely tuned athletes that are asked to travel frequently and compete multiple times at one event. Your best option is to plan ahead and limit the amount of stress as much as possible.
When hauling long distances, overnight at a fairgrounds that will let you turn the horses out in the arena for a while, if not all night. Make sure to bed your trailer and stalls deep with shavings. Do your best to maintain a consistent feed source and monitor water consumption, especially during travel.
Once you get settled in at the event, hand-walk your horse for 15-20 minutes. Rather than go right to training on your first ride, let your horse long trot for a while. Spend a lot of time walking out after.
Taking good care of your equine athlete while on the road will allow you the best opportunity to achieve your goals….and paychecks!