OH BABY, BABY
A veteran horseman of 40 years who took me under him wing early in my professional career, told me often, “every time you touch horse you’re teaching them something.” That saying has stuck with me over all these years, and I remember it every time I touch horse. Years ago I had a commercial hauler bring a stallion, an easy shipper, from Spokane Washington to New England and by the time they reached the northeast, the horse did not ‘load. It took a year to get that horse comfortable with loading and unloading. The hauler may have been doing his job, but he don’t have a clue on how to handle a stallion. Whatever the shipper was doing, he was teaching the horse not to load.
When you handle a young horse, it’s even more important to understand that you can affect his perception for the rest of his life. Shipping foals and wean lings can be tricky business. If it’s done correctly, then your young horse will develop into a good shipper. Years ago I had the opportunity to ship a mare with foal at side a distance of about 100 miles to be bred back. Needless to say, the mare had to be transported a total of six times, three round trips.
The colt, named Ruben, took it all in stride. When we loaded his mom, we tied her and left him loose in the trailer in which we had removed the panels/dividers. He figured out quite quickly how to travel.
His experience was a good one and of course it helped that he was following mom onto the trailer. Since then I’ve had the opportunity to move Rubin many times. First, to his new home about 150 miles from where he was brought up. And again other times, to new barns, and to be trained as a three-year-old. Each time he jumped on the trailer and it was no big deal. This is a result of quietly and carefully getting him to load when he was young. As handlers we must make trailering for young horses a good experience.
Because I have raised somewhere between 150 and 200 foals, I have had to deal with many different situations. So let’s start with some of the basics of transporting young horses. To transport a mare and foal, it is important to remove any and all partitions from the trailer. This gives the feel of a stall and allows the mare to find the foal at all times. When you load them head tie the mare and leave the foal loose. The baby will quickly adjust to traveling in the trailer and the mare will have room as to not step on the foal. When Shipping wean lings and yearlings I recommend that you don’t head tie them, unless it is really necessary. I once transported a yearling with a client and while in transit I looked in the mirror and the yearling had stuck his front leg out the side window. He had been jumping up and down in the trailer and managed to get a leg over his head tie. Nothing serious, but important to pay attention to. Also I suggest that you do not hang any net hay bags. I’ve seen young horses, bouncing up and down in the trailer and getting their feet caught in the bag. Generally transporting any of these young horses is fine for up to five hours. It is particularly important to pay attention to hydration, particularly with foals.
Transporting a foal without his mother creates a whole other set of issues and should only be considered in extreme cases. I’m always available to discuss your particular situation. Just call.
Of course, as babies get older, transporting them becomes less and less of an issue.
Enjoy your new babies. And safe travels with your horse.