with Jerry Bailey, DVM
The upcoming CINCH National Finals of Team Roping and the Priefert World Series of Team Roping Finale have ropers loading their horses in trailers and hitting the road for Oklahoma City and Las Vegas. Common-sense tips from Oklahoma’s USTRC and WSTR member and veterinarian Jerry Bailey, DVM, can go a long way in making your trip trouble free for the equine athlete on your trailer.
-UST A PINCH
Making sure your horse is hydrated is key to keeping him healthy on the road and when stalled in a strange place. For young horses, old horses or horses just not used to traveling, I like to put a pinch of electrolytes on their tongue before I leave. I’ve never seen it fail to get one to drink in six or eight hours.
It’s the law to have Equine Infectious Anemia tests, commonly known as a Coggins test done before you leave. There are some places—like Florida— where you’ll be held up until a veterinarian can come to take blood and run your Coggins. Health papers become very important, too. Veterinarians should see the horse and make sure he doesn’t have a fever, and that he’s not coming from a place currently under quarantine. It should be just a part of traveling.
If you’re going to a roping, watch what you feed your horse. I like to haul horses on alfalfa because that keeps their stool a little loose. Horses can get dehydrated, then impacted. Their body takes their moisture out of their stool. If you can keep them on something that keeps them a little loose, that won’t happen.
Horses are way better if they’re too cool than too hot while traveling. I barely get
cases of shipping fever when horses are kept cool. You get it very often when they’re hot. In Florida, people would ship in from New York quite often. It wasn’t unusual for me to get 20 horses in and have to treat five or six for shipping fever. But clients who would stop in Kentucky and clip their horses never had problems. Keep your trailer windows open for ventilation, and don’t haul with blankets on your horses in closed trailers.
Horsemen and -women need to have a kind of colic protocol. Many ropers have Banamine (flunixin) and Rompun (xylazine) available and will give it if they see signs of colic. That can make a big difference if caught early. If that horse doesn’t respond, get help right away. When treated within the first hour he gets colicky, 90 percent will be fine with the first treatment. If not treated in that first hour, half will run into problems.
It’s always a good idea to stop and let your horse rest overnight. I think 14-15 hours is the max hauling time, with 12 being ideal. There are certainly horses who are hauled longer during the rodeo runs, but even those guys stop and eat and get their horses out. Even stopping without unloading is beneficial for your horses to rest in the trailer. Consider Soft Ride Boots and Back-On-Track boots for those long hauls and time in stalls—they seem to make a big difference.
Letting your horse stand in a stall for days before you rope is always a bad idea. They’re going to build up their glucose and starch in their tissues, and then when you go ride them you’ll run into tying up. Tying up was originally called Monday Morning disease. In the old days, workhorses would have Sunday off and stand in their tie stalls and get the same amount to eat. Monday morning, they’d go to work after standing and eating all day, and they couldn’t burn off all of the energy and lactose they’d built up. Sometimes horses tie up for no good reason, but you can entice horses to tie up by letting them stand around on the same feed, like at a roping, and then take them out to exercise. When you must keep your horse in a stall, even if it’s your day off from roping, getting him out for some exercise is a good idea.