Keeping Your Horse Calm On The Road
Traveling with horses can be a stressful time for you and them. Horses can be prone to ulcers, colic and general illness when taken away from their home and routine.
To help them settle, there are a few things I recommend. First, keep hay in front of them as much as absolutely possible. Eating is a calming and repetitive motion that helps your horse quiet his brain and focus on something he enjoys. Even if your horse is an easy keeper, it may be worth keeping some low-calorie grass hay with him in a slow feed net. Sid even gets one in the trailer!
Second, maximize his “movement” time. When we go to shows or clinics, our horses often don’t get the turnout time they’re used to, which can caused stressed and fussy horses. I try to get to events that extra hour early to give my horse time to stretch his legs and get his wild energy out on his own. 30 minutes of walk/trot lunging and he’s feeling infinitely better, which keeps him from pacing his stall or fighting with his neighbor.
Finally, don’t be afraid to use a calming paste. Now, I don’t mean sedate/drug the bejesus our of your horse. A sleepy and slow horse can be just as dangerous as a wild one. However, there are a number of magnesium/vitamin B/tryptophan formulas on the market designed just to help your horse settle a little. Sid got some this weekend at Horse Expo to help him keep from feeling overwhelmed by all the activity. It doesn’t make him sleepy, he’s still bright and interested and happy, he just isn’t quite as jumpy or startled by new things (I.e. the donkey braying about 10ft from his face). This can be a really helpful tool to help your horse just settle into a new place without becoming too overwhelmed too quickly. They’re prey animals - some don’t cope well with just exercise and food, and having a little boost to the right calming chemicals in their brain can really help them along, just like having a bit of lavender or magnesium can help us really settle as well.