Professional barrel racer Jackie Ganter’s horses travel nearly 60,000 miles a year...that’s more than most people. Hauling down the highway at 65 mph or faster can zap a horse’s energy and impact his performance. Changing temperatures and elevations can add to the stress. Preparation and a good pre-trip fitness level is key to keeping horses healthy on the road.
Pre-travel conditioning is just the first step. Jackie follows a strict routine with her horses to help keep them sound and happy going down the road. Here’s her five tips for keeping well-traveled horses healthy.
1. Keep them drinking.Horses need to stay hydrated to achieve peak performance and to prevent colic. Jackie stops every five hours on long hauls to be sure her horses are getting enough water. Electrolytes encourage even the pickiest horses to drink, she says.
2. Support their hooves.
Hauling as frequently as Jackie does makes it challenging to keep horses sound. The vibration of the road and the heat that radiates off the pavement can cause some horses to go lame in the trailer.
“My horse’s feet are imperative,” she says. “I use Master’s Hoof Blend™ supplement by Vita Flex® to keep them strong and healthy.”
3. Watch for soreness.
Soreness can impact a horse’s ability to perform his best and it can come on quick, even without a significant injury. Jackie closely monitors her horses in the stall and in the arena for the slightest signs of soreness.
“I make sure I know how my horse feels at his best so that I can recognize when he’s not,” she says. “They can get sore in as little as one run and I have to be in tune with that.”
4. Go the extra mile.
It’s a no-brainer to pamper a horse during a long trip. But Jackie says it’s as important hauling short distances too. Every time she hauls, she uses PHT quick wraps because she believes they help keep her horse’s legs feeling fresh.
“Sometimes when you’re tired and you think you’re not going that far, it’s easy to skip all this stuff,” she says. “But any time I’ve done that I regret it when I get to a race, so I make sure I go the extra mile for my horses no matter where we go.”
5. Feed them well.
A solid nutrition program starts at home. A veterinarian or an equine nutritionist can help you design a feeding program that’s right for your horse. Hauling is hard on the horse’s body and the stress can quickly shed pounds, Jackie says. Making sure they are eating enough hay and grain ensures they are getting enough nutrition.
“I don’t want them fat but I like my horses to have a little bit of a belly,” she says. “They’ll back off on eating a little when we’re hauling hard so I make sure I get them the best nutrition to keep them feeling good.”