This year I have seen more of the United States than ever before.
I have been competing on both coasts for a number of years, but this year we made the decision to drive our horses from our home in Idaho to Florida for the winter season, instead of flying them.
Logistically, it just made more sense -- we had seven horses to ship (which would have been too expensive for us to fly), and we wanted our truck and trailer in Florida anyway.
Being the slightly over-protective horse mom that I am, I like to drive them myself, rather than send them off with anyone else.
Plus, I've got a system of feeding and supplementing them that seems to work quite well for when they travel. It starts about two weeks before they ship, when I start putting powdered Gatorade in their water buckets at home.
My horses' personal preference seems to be the lemon-lime flavor. I start gradually and build up to two big scoops per bucket. This not only gives them a little electrolyte boost, but more importantly, it flavors the water with a taste that is familiar to them.
While we are on the road and staying at different places throughout the drive, a few scoops of Gatorade in their water makes it taste just like the water they had at home. Otherwise, horses can often get turned off by different smelling or tasting water, and they can quickly become dehydrated. While on the road, we stop every few hours to check on them and offer them water.
The rest of their regimen involves supplementing them to keep their immunity up, guts happy, and keep them hydrated. One month before shipping, they all start getting immunity boosting supplements, including vitamins E, C, and colostrum. Perfect prep makes a product called "Protequtor" which combines all these and more, and I have had great luck feeding it.
Two days before shipping, they all start getting increased electrolytes in their grain, as well as some bran mash and mineral oil to keep them hydrated and prevent gut impaction. I also start giving them a daily dose of "Equiotics" paste, which is a wonderful equine derived probiotic.
During the trip, we drive about 10 hours a day. I wasn't alone, of course; others on the drive were Bob McDonald, Ruben Palomera and his brother, Jorge. Our entourage stays overnight at places I have found on horsemotel.com. Although you need to do a little research on the places listed on this site (be sure to actually look at photos of a facility, not just the description), I have found most of them to be quite usable and safe, and we have met some really nice hosts on our trips.
They are often excited to hear about one of the horses we have with us, and sometimes even ask to have their photo taken with them. Every evening after they get settled into their new surroundings, we take the horses out for a nice long hand walk. Then they get their paste medications: Gastroguard, electrolyte paste, and Equiotics paste, followed by a bran mash mixed in with their pre-bagged dinner. And of course, we always have an emergency vet kit on hand, in case something goes wrong. This has bandage material, eye wash and medication, emergency tranquilizers (ace and dormosedan) and banamine. We hope to never have to use any of it, but always better to be safe than sorry.
The other thing you have to consider when planning your trip is the weather. This time, driving the horses home from Florida to Idaho, we left at 10 p.m. the first day and drove through the night, in order to avoid shipping in the heat of the day. Then we got in during the morning to our overnight place and they had all day and evening to rest. After that, we did one more night drive to get us from Georgia to Illinois.
At this point the weather was cooler, and we were then able to leave in the mornings and drive through the day. But we did have a bucket of ice water mixed with some rubbing alcohol, to give them sponge-offs if they got hot in the trailer. As we crossed into Wyoming, the temperature dropped into the 30s and it began to snow. Good thing we had looked at the weather forecast before we left, and kept their heavy shipping coolers where we could easily access them. By the time we got to Idaho, five days after we left Florida, it was sunny and 60 degrees. Everyone pranced off the trailer, happy to be home.