FAQ: Side effects, consequences and complications of travelling horses

FAQ: Side effects/ consequences and complications of travelling horses

consequences and complications of travelling horses

Generally speaking there are two main concerns when travelling horses that could impact on the health status that you as an owner should be mindful of. As with every activity that we carry out with horses and in life in general there are always side effects, consequences and complications that can occur. The rubbing of tails/Buttocks and travel sickness in equines must not be eliminated from our thought process when hauling horses over any distances whether it be over a 5 mile journey or 5 day trip.


Horses and Ponies that insist on resting their tails or buttocks on the back wall or adjoining partition of a lorry OR bar of a trailer is every horses transporter and owners bug bare as little can be done about it.

If you have travelled horses in the past then you will be well aware of the "Bog Brush" tail effect where a horse sits its weight back and rubs against the back of the horse box. Tail guards and Bandages which can be purchased on line and in most tack shops can help eliminate this messy looking tail BUT these commercially bought products cannot and will not stop a horse rubbing its point of buttock.

Some horse regardless of Age, height/size or distance travelled will load on to the lorry or trailer and pop and prop themselves in to a position that they feel comfortable with to travel. From the CCTV on our lorry we can see that some horses and ponies will stand square in there partition space with a clear margin ALL around them and travel happily.

Others however will lean to support themselves the moment the vehicle starts moving. It would not be uncommon for a 11hh, 12hh or 13hh pony to rub is bottom - This consequence of travelling really is not directly associated and attached to size but more the way the equine handles travelling .

REMEMBER: Each and every horse is individual and will cope and deal with the experience of travelling very differently. They will draw on past experiences and their characters to deal with a situation. Horses that persist to lean on the hard surface whilst travelling will be subject to a sore or rub exposing broken skin.

Like a human on a train/underground carriage, we would rather prop ourselves up against the wall of the carriage to steady ourselves whilst it is moving, it’s no different for a horse to act in the same way in a horse box.

However humans will normally be a lot lighter than the weight of a horse and so the ration of weight on the skin will be a great deal less and so the human will not have the nasty raw rub marks that a horse may encounter, secondly the human will be clothed therefore no skin will be directly touching the offending surface that gives rise to the friction that caused the blistering effect.

Transporting Horses by Road and Air
Travel Sickness In Horses and Side Effects of Travel

LOC horse transport travel horses to more countries than ever before and we know just how important it is to keep a very close eye on the horse during transport but also once it arrives at your yard. Liz O'Connor writes on the after care and importance of care after travelling horses for long distances.

Travelling horses is such a common part of the equestrians' life these days that we often don't stop and think about the ill effects that it may have on our horses. The very young/old/unfit or field kept horse travelling a short distance within the UK could be more at risk to travel sickness than a fit horse travelling for a week to a competition.

What is travel sickness?

Travel sickness as it is commonly known or 'Pleuropneumonia' is inflammation and fluid build- up both within the lung and pleura. The pleura is the space between the lungs and chest wall. Horses develop pleuropneumonia from contamination of the lower respiratory tract, their lungs, with bacteria that normally occur in the upper respiratory tract, upper throat and nose.

When your horse travels its natural environment is disrupted. His head is raised for longer periods than is natural, he often eats with his head raised and standing in one place instead of the typical grazing behaviour with his head down. He has limited space to be able to lower its head to snort and cough and clear its throat and lungs.

Travel sickness is a respiratory disease, so it is essential to keep the environment dust free. Hay and feed must be of good quality and dampened to avoid dust and the vehicle must be kept as clean as possible to avoid a build-up of dust articles. Ventilation is essential at all times unless the weather is extremely cold. Clean fresh air is very important.

Most experts agree that horses are particularly at risk when they cannot lower their heads over a long time to clear their throats by coughing or snorting, this also enables the throat and airways to remain moist by saliva flow. Environmental changes and the stress of travelling a horse have proven to weaken the horses' immune system leaving it more susceptible to illness and to triggering infections.

Monitor closely. Be vigilant and monitor your horse after a long journey by road, sea and or air

Immediately before, during and after travelling, horses should be monitored closely. A log should be made of the horses' temperature and general well-being, whether he has had a drink before loading and the consistency of any droppings. Once your horse has been unloaded at the destination, he should be left for an hour or so before checking his temperature. This will give his body temperature time to recover and return to normal.

Normally, the temperature of your horse is between 37.5 - 38.5 degrees C. If it is higher than normal then you should consult your vet. Droppings, water intake, temperature and general well-being should be monitored for at least 24 hours after the journey.

Early signs

Early signs of travel sickness are not limited to and can include:

  1. Dull eye
  2. Raised temperature
  3. Coughing fits
  4. Dehydration
  5. Lack of interest in food
  6. Discharge from the nostrils
  7. Change in dropping consistency
  8. Rapid breathing
  9. Pawing the ground
  10. Unwillingness to move around.

*Immediate veterinary advice should be sought if any signs of travel sickness are apparent as this disease can be quickly debilitating.

Preventative measures

Whilst travel sickness is not wholly preventable, we have included "Best Practices" for travelling your horse, as prevention is better than cure.

  1. Do not over rug your horse whilst travelling, ideally no rug or a very light breathable type should be used. When the horse is in transit there will be heat from other horses, from being in a confined space, from outside weather conditions and from the tarmac and road conditions. Once your horse has been unloaded he may benefit from a lightweight breathable rug as the travelling conditions will always be warmer than the stable or field. We recommend a microfibre or thermatex material rug should be used as this is breathable and will allow air to circulate, keeping the horse at the optimum temperature
  2. Allow your horse 24 hours of complete rest after the journey to recover from fatigue and dehydration
  3. Make sure that all his food and water are on the floor for at least 48-72 hours after the journey and not in feeders up off the ground. This will encourage your horse to lower his head to ensure that mucus can be cleared.

Pre and Post Travel check list:

  1. Take your horse's temperature prior to travelling
  2. Take rest for the horse whilst travelling long distances to allow the horses head to lower to the ground
  3. Use good quality hay/haylage on the lorry
  4. Take temperature of the horse one hour after unloading
  5. Monitor the horse prior to transit, whilst in transit and after unloading for any of the above signs of travel sickness
  6. Keep a record of droppings, regularity of passing droppings, and consistency
  7. Keep the local vets number saved on your mobile phone and pinned up in the tack room
  8. Allow the horse to rest and relax in a quiet place after transport
  9. Have a light weight breathable rug to hand

Recognising the signs that your horse may be tired or unwell from travelling is not always easy but good horse husbandry can go a long way to helping your horse bounce back to his usual self after a long trip. The symptoms of travel sickness can sometimes not emerge for 2 or 3 days so it is important the keep a vigilant eye on the horse and check for all the signs of travel sickness for up to 3-4 days.

Travel sickness can be dangerous as the symptoms are often ignored, if your horse has any signs of travel sickness at any stage throughout its journey or for 3-4 days after you should call the vet immediately as it is better to be cautious.

Finding out more:

If you want to find out more please contact us info@locltd.com.

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