Making the Long Haul with Horses: Advice from a Fellow Traveler

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Last fall, RW customer service representative Jessica left us to pursue her doctorate at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. With the major transition came a big journey across the country with her two horses, Pistol and Rudy. Over 2,000 miles later, Jessica and her two handsome boys arrived safe and sound at their destination. Read on for her advice on making long-distance trips with your horses a success!

Photo credit (right): Elizabeth Hay Photography
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Change is often one of the hardest and scariest things that we have to do in life, but most of the time, it ends up being one of the most rewarding things too. In August of 2020, I made the biggest change of my life: I quit my amazing customer service job at Riding Warehouse after four years, said see you later to all of my friends, packed up my whole life into my two horse trailers, and left my home state of California to start my PhD program in Animal Science at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

My horses are a huge part of my life, so there was never a question in my mind as to whether or not they would make the move with me. I am very blessed to have two horse trailers, a living quarters and a 2-horse bumper pull, and the most amazing and supportive parents, and boyfriend in the world. On the morning of August 13th, we all set out on our four-day cross-country journey with the horses in the living quarters trailer, and literally all of my belongings in the bumper pull. It was a long and stressful, yet beautiful journey, and here are some of the biggest tips and tricks that I used on my long haul that you can apply to yours!

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Last August, Jessica made the long trek to snowy Wisconsin with her two steeds!

Step 1: Plan Your Route, and Maybe an Alternative One Too
The first and one of the most important steps to a long haul is planning your route! I think the simplest method to do this is start on Google maps or another navigation system, and look at the big picture of how you will get to your destination. Next, zoom in along that route and look for somewhat big towns that you will be passing through, and write them down as potential candidates for overnight stops. Once you have picked some potential towns or cities along the way, start to break up your trip. How long and far do you want to drive each day? Do you need to account for conditions such as ice or snow that may delay your trip?

I decided that I wanted to cover about 600 miles a day for the first three days so that the fourth day would be the shortest. Knowing this, I started calculating which of the stopping points I had chosen were about 600 miles from my starting point. This plan landed me in Cedar City, Utah, Denver, Colorado, Atlantic, Iowa, and eventually Oregon, Wisconsin where my horses would be staying. This plan was perfect until we actually began driving. When we left Cedar City in the morning and plugged in our Colorado destination for the day, we discovered that the main highway was closed due to forest fires, had to re-route up through Wyoming, and ended up stopping in Cheyenne for the night. That is why I suggest making an alternate plan just in case something happens to your first one!

Step 2: Find Places for Your Horses and You to Stay Overnight
It is so important to find nice places for your horses to stay overnight so that they can stretch their legs and relax after a long day in the trailer. I found all of my overnight boarding locations on www.horsemotel.com and honestly could not recommend this website enough. Every state is listed and there are a ton of facilities in each state that specifically accommodate short stays. My favorite part about all my locations was that they were not huge boarding facilities. Two of the nights, my horses were the only ones at the facilities. These facilities were also kind enough to allow me to park my living quarters and have power so that I could stay there for the night. Of course, if you do not have a living quarters trailer, booking a hotel close by is a must!

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When making long hauls, HorseMotel.com is a great website to look for spots to overnight.

Step 3: Time to Go to the Vet!
In order to travel across state lines and stop at overnight facilities, you will need to have a current health certificate and Coggins test for your horse. It is important to plan your vet visit at the appropriate time because a health certificate is only valid for 30 days. A Coggins test is good for 6-12 months depending on the state (most states are 12 months). It is also important to make sure that your horse is up to date on all of their vaccinations as they might encounter new horses or new hazards such as mosquitos.

Step 4: Service Your Rig
Just in case you do not have a dad like mine who will constantly heckle you about servicing your truck and trailer, here is your friendly reminder! You need to make sure that your rig is in tip-top condition before you get on the road. I would recommend taking your truck and trailer into a professional shop to be sure that nothing gets overlooked. You need to have good tires all around, great brakes, and functional lights. It also definitely does not hurt to get the oil, transmission, and any other fluids changed on your truck if you are going to be driving thousands of miles. When I took my truck into the shop two weeks before I was scheduled to leave, they ended up finding out that I had a diesel leak that I did not know about! It was so much better to find out about it than instead of being stranded in the middle of Nebraska. Spend the money on preventative maintenance rather than fixing it later!

Step 5: Pack Your Trailer
You should double and triple-check that you have everything you will need for your horses packed in your trailer. Most importantly, make sure that you have some sort of first aid kit for your horses. Hopefully, you will not need it, but we all know that horses tend to be accident-prone. Most people already have their own homemade one, but if you don’t, there are a couple great first-aid kits available for purchase that should have you covered! Next, it is important that your horses will have access to food and water. I have a trailer with hay mangers, however if yours does not have these, you will want to consider getting a hay bag, net, or corner feeder.

As far as water goes, you will need to make sure that you have buckets, as well as water storage itself. Most gas stations don’t have access to water other than what is in the bathroom, and most horses like the taste of water from home better anyways. You can always fill the tank that is attached to your trailer or if you do not have one, you can fill a bunch of 5-gallon water jugs. Lastly, make sure to bed down your trailer generously and bring along extra bags of shavings to put in the trailer after the end of each day.

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Hay bags or nets, water buckets, and a first-aid kit are must-haves on the road!

Other Useful Tips, Tricks, and Products
I will never travel anywhere, especially long distances without my Easyboot Clouds. These hoof boots provide comfort for my horses when standing in the trailer and experiencing rough roads. I also use them when in small stalls at races and when walking at facilities that are asphalt or concrete.

You will probably also notice that your horse doesn’t drink as well when on the road. For my long haul, I made sure to give the Lyte Now Equine Electrolyte Paste every day. It contains salt to encourage them to drink, as well as many electrolytes and minerals that are lost during trailering and stress. If you don’t want to bring your own water on your trip, you may also want to consider getting a Horse Hydrator to attach to the end of hoses or hydrants to filter out foreign tastes and scents.

Closing Thoughts
Remember that you know your horse the best. For example, I know that my horse Pistol gets very stressed when unloading from the trailer, however he is perfectly calm when actually in the trailer. Therefore, I took this into consideration on my trip. I know that unloading him constantly along the way would cause more stress than benefit, and decided to keep my boys loaded until our final stop each evening. I would stop every three hours or so to get fuel, let the horses stand still for about 15-20 minutes, and offer them water.

Also, use your best judgment when it comes to shipping boots or leg wraps. I typically wrap my horses' legs on hauls, but opted not to on this long trip as it was the middle of the summer, and didn’t want their legs to overheat. Even though we left between 2am and 5am most days in an attempt to beat the heat, it still got very hot and humid by midday. Overall, use your best judgment, trust what your horse is telling you, drive safe, and try to take in all of the beautiful views around you!

Safe travels out there! For more advice on what to pack for your trip, check out sponsored rider Renae Cowley's travel essentials on RidingWarehouse.com.
 
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