Can a horse stay in a trailer overnight? (13+ tips)

In this blog post, we will discuss: Can a horse stay in a trailer overnight? We will give you advice for travelling in safe and comfortable conditions with your horse. 

Can a horse stay in a trailer overnight?

Horses can stay in a trailer overnight as long as you don’t make a habit out of it. International standards set a maximum of 8 hours of travel per day for horses. For longer journeys, the truck must have special equipment. For example, a floor with beds, spacers, ventilation systems and a temperature controller (hot/cold).

If you plan long journeys, the horse trailers must:

  • They must be designed and used in order to avoid injury. We recommend the use of non-slip floors or floors containing shavings to absorb urine.
  • They must protect the animal from extreme temperatures and have adequate ventilation.
  • The minimum height inside the compartments must exceed the height at the withers of the tallest animal by at least 75 cm.
  • Pay attention that water and food are needed for the hours of transport.
  • Make stops every 6 hours, so that the horse feeds, drinks and relieves itself. At each stop, the health of the horses must be checked.
  • For proper transport, it is recommended to tie the animals, but always leaving some freedom of movement. You must allow the horse to lower its head. Among other things, for proper cleaning and drainage of his airways.
  • The position must never be transverse to the longitudinal axis of the vehicle. Otherwise, the animal will easily lose its balance, risking falling and causing very serious injuries.
  • As for placing them forward or backward, there are different opinions. Animals have been shown to suffer less stress by placing the muzzle forward.

Transporting horses: equipment and planning

Every ideal means of transport for horses, in addition to the non-slip and chipboard flooring, should also have windows. An airy environment minimizes possible phobias and the generation of stress in the animal.

There are studies that conclude that the suspension of the trailer affects the quality of the trip. Lower air pressure inside the tires makes the ride smoother and reduces fatigue in the horse.

For personal safety, the provision of special blankets and socks is recommended. With them, the body heat generated by the animal is absorbed.

Your relationship with the horse has more importance than you may think! Don’t convey nervousness. Avoid showing accessories and tools used during transport.

Let the horse rest 24 hours before the start of the journey. Patiently teach him to recognize the truck. Make it go up and down sometime in the previous days so that it gets used to it.

The first few times, you can ride him with another experienced horse that will give him confidence and help him behave more calmly. Give your horse plenty of water. Exposure to heat, fatigue and travel nervousness are all elements that promote dehydration.

In the warm months, travel during the hours of least heat and provide adequate thermal insulation for the trailer. The tranquillity, safety and health of your horse are always the primary objectives. Especially when travelling!

Advice for the optimal transportation of your horse

  1. Travel equipment for the horse: the horse must wear the halter for the duration of the trip. Most experts suggest a leather halter (not nylon or rope). In an emergency, the leather is easy to cut. Depending on the weather during your trip, you may or may not need a blanket. Bumpers and leg guards can be very important. The bumpers provide additional support and protection from injury during transport (check that they fit properly or they could do worse).
  1. Health Documents: You will need a health certificate issued by the veterinarian stating the vaccinations and the negative result for the Coggins test carried out in the last six months. Check state regulations before travelling to see if you need other vaccinations. 

Note: You should do everything in advance due to the time it takes for the cards to be issued. Be proficient in the way you travel before tackling long distances.

  1. Food: The horse will need fresh hay for the journey. When you arrange your food, think about the distance to go. You should make intermediate stops to give the horse water and to make sure he is always well hydrated. You may find that hiring an experienced person is easier and more cost-effective.
  1. Get yourself an emergency kit in case of accidents during the trip.
  1. When transporting a horse in a trailer for two, secure it in the box at the driver’s side. Make sure you have loaded all the safety equipment the day before, so you won’t have to rush the next day to find your gloves or halter.
  1. Check that the trailer is well ventilated. Once you arrive at your destination, check your horse. Examine the joints, see if you have any cuts or scrapes, and make sure he hasn’t got a fever.
  1. Horses who have never seen a trailer can be afraid and injured if the wearer is not careful. It is a good idea to practice before the trip so that the horse gets used to the narrow, dark space. 
  1. If possible, find a trailer that is at least 30 cm taller than the horse.
  1. You will need to use a bumper cover for the animal’s head, in case the horse gets up on its hind legs.
  1. When travelling on a long or multi-day trip, always work out a backup plan. It would be better for someone to drive behind you in another car, in case you have problems that are difficult to understand, such as a flat tire; in order to get to a mechanical workshop, veterinarian, etc. in any case.
  1. Always keep halters, ropes and blankets in reserve. If you get stuck on the road or in the middle of a forest and one of the halters breaks, you need a ready replacement. Same thing for the blankets: if suddenly the cold falls, there is a blizzard or a storm, you will need to be able to cover the horse.
  1. Leave early in the morning and if you can, as soon as it gets light, you will see the load and the attachment of the horses which, in the evening, may not be performed correctly.  If you have to leave early in the morning or late in the evening, load the horses in a well-lit area to avoid any accidents.
  1. There are various types of horse transports and just as many ways of loading animals. Check with your carrier to find out which vehicle is right for you and your horse.

Important facts to keep in mind when transporting a horse

  • Horses tend to lose 900 grams to 2 kg per hour they travel in the cold. Warm even more, so always check that your horse is well hydrated.
  • Horses are unpredictable and equestrian disciplines are among the most dangerous sports. Be prepared for anything. Better to have even if you don’t need it than not to have it when needed.
  • Blankets, bumpers and protectors can slip or peel off over time. It is important to check the horse’s legs periodically if you are travelling for more than four hours. If the bumper is not worn well, it could damage them.
  • Before the trip, to avoid digestive problems, it is better not to give grains to the horse.
  • Fatigue is the biggest problem when travelling long or at extreme times. Make sure you are prepared for the trip and not tired: if you are ready, have a good breakfast with coffee and/or a nice juice. This way you will be awake and alert.
  • Try not to travel during the hottest hours of the day. If it is unavoidable, take a lot of breaks for the water and let the water out to let it get some air.
  • Only carry a sick horse if absolutely necessary. Better not to expose it to other horses.
  • Horse transports have weight limits. Check with the manufacturer and estimate the weight of the horse and gear.
  • You can be a good driver, but it is the other person on the road that you have to worry about, so take all precautions to avoid accidents (i.e. turn on the lights, turn on the arrows, etc.)

Final tips

As final tips, here are a few things you will need when transporting your horse:

  • Health certificate
  • Food (fresh hay)
  • water
  • Trailer in good condition (lights, attack, etc.)
  • Halter, ropes, protective blankets, etc.

Please feel free to get in contact should you have any questions or suggestions about safely transporting a horse.

FAQ on Can a horse stay in a trailer overnight?

How many hours can a horse travel in the trailer?

A horse can travel up to 8 hours in the trailer. The horse must always have a net with hay (better soaked) so that he can eat at all times. It is advisable to water the animal and supply electrolytes in short periods of time. 

What license is needed to drive a horse trailer?

To transport horses in a van you will need special authorization, since the weight that the vehicle pulls increases considerably with the load of the horses. 

How to calm a nervous horse?

To calm a nervous horse, you can breathe deeply and slowly, thus maintaining a steady heart rate. You may also be able to maintain an overall positive attitude, which may require you to calm the horse by speaking or singing to it in a soft voice before riding.

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