Transportation of Horses

Horses are designed to have the ability to stand for long periods of time. Nevertheless, while traveling they will need periods of rest approximately every 3-4 hours. The time it takes to fuel your vehicle offers an adequate rest period. If you will be traveling longer than 18 hours, prior arrangements should be made so that both you and your horse may have a prolonged rest period that includes unloading from the trailer and stalling the horse for the night. 

Loading Your Animal

Before loading a horse, be sure the horse is wearing a correct fitting halter that will not slip off or break while loading. Lead the horse up to the trailer and encourage the horse to walk in. NEVER wrap your hand around the leadline. If the horse were to spook the handler could be could be injured. Once the horse has stepped up into the trailer and is standing, secure it with a quick release trailer tie or a slip knot with the leadline. Being able to release a horse quickly is crucial during an emergency situation. Be sure to carry a pocketknife in the emergency that the tie rope would need to be cut. It is important to always be aware of the animal while inside the trailer due to being in tight confinement with them. If the horse were to become scared or panicky, be sure there is a quick exit from the trailer to avoid injury.

Avoiding Injury while on the Road

Shipping boots and leg wraps offer additional protection to a horse’s legs during transportation. Most shipping boots extend up from the coronary band to the knees and hocks. Make sure the horse is used to wearing shipping boots or leg wraps before hauling. Many horses will stomp or kick the first time boots or wraps are place on them. If using shipping boots or leg wraps, be sure they are securely fastened, wrapped snug so they do not slip off during transportation. A loose shipping boot can cause the horse to slip and fall in the trailer.

When hauling several horses, it is recommended that the horses be familiar with each other. Horses have a social hierarchy within their herd which will continue inside the trailer. Be mindful which order horses are loaded. Avoid placing the most dominate horse next to the most timid. The use of dividing partitions can be especially helpful when separating horses.

Feeding and Watering

Feeding and watering on the road is just as important as when the animal is at home. When possible, take all needed feed and hay for the entire trip, making sure that you have enough for all the horses you are transporting. When offering freechoice hay during transportation, secure the hay net high and tight to avoid your horse becoming entangled during trailering.

Take buckets from home so the horse can eat and drink out of familiar containers. This also reduces disease transfer from other horses. Water should be offered every 3-4 hours. Some horses will not drink while traveling but should still be offered water. A few gulps of water can help avoid colic or impaction troubles during the trip.


Having good ventilation is a must! Not only does good ventilation help keep horses cool in the trailer, but it also provides fresh air during the trip. Opening ceiling vents and/or windows can ensure good ventilation. When opening side windows, be sure to keep screens and window bars closed while traveling on roadways. It is exceptionally dangerous for a horse to have its head outside of a moving trailer traveling at high speeds in traffic.

Unloading Your Animal

Before unloading your horse, park the trailer in a location where the horse(s) can be unloaded onto secure footing, such as grass or gravel. Be sure to unload in a safe area away from roadways and traffic. Even experienced, seasoned horses can spook away from their handler when arriving at a new location. It is not recommended to unload horses on pavement as horses are prone to slipping on asphalt.

Just as with loading, practice makes perfect when unloading your horse. Be sure your horse will calmly back out of the trailer. Make sure you have a hold on the lead line to guide your horse out of the trailer. NEVER wrap your hand around the lead rope. You may be injured if the horse were to pull back quickly or tries to turn around in the trailer.

Safe Traveling

The weekend trail rider may have a different hauling set-up than a show jumper who travels up and down the East Coast months at a time. Proper preparation and practice for trailering your animal will avoid many problems while traveling. Once you have unpacked from the trip don’t forget to clean and disinfect your trailer. Not only does this reduce any disease concerns but your trailer will be clean for your next trip.

Courtesy of University of Minnesota Extension