From Home to Show: Solving sticky scenarios you might encounter when shipping and showing your horse
Your list of things to think about when prepping for a horse show is long. Did your horse nail that last jump school? Are his hooves trimmed or shod? Do you have a current health certificate and negative Coggins test on hand? Did you remember to pack everything in the trailer? With horse showing comes a variety of scenarios you wouldn’t otherwise face at home. Therefore, it’s important to plan ahead and know how to handle them.
Two sport horse veterinarians have shared how to make smart horse health decisions at competitions. Duncan Peters, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVSMR, ISELP, is a sports medicine practitioner and co-owner and founder of East-West Equine Sports Medicine, in Lexington, Kentucky, and Nancy Loving, DVM, owns Loving Equine Clinic, in Boulder, Colorado.
It’s up to you to “choose your own adventure” in the scenarios below, just like the popular gamebooks of the 1980s and 1990s. See if you select the right paths toward a healthful and successful showing experience.
Getting to the Show
You’ve hired a commercial shipper to transport your horse to a show several hours away. Upon arrival, the driver hops out and opens the trailer door. The smell of manure wafts out, and you spy dried diarrhea all over one wall. Who knows whether that diarrhea was caused by nerves or some kind of infection? But, obviously, potentially exposing your horse to pathogens (disease-causing organisms) is not an option. Do you:
- Ask the transportation crew to clean and disinfect the inside of the trailer? See No. 1.
- Refuse their service and try to get another ride to the show? See No. 2.
1. The shipper hastily cleans and disinfects the trailer, after which you load your horse and he heads to the show. Several days later at the event, your horse becomes sick, developing a fever and diarrhea. The on-site veterinarian diagnoses him with an infectious gastrointestinal disease, which prompts show management to isolate your horse and start a quarantine process at the venue. Your horse show experience is not only a bust but also a biosecurity nightmare.
Loving believes choosing to transport your horse in that trailer is not worth the risk. “There is no good reason to put your horse on a van that houses potentially infectious material,” she says. “It is unlikely that sufficient cleaning and disinfection are possible to accomplish in the short time frame you likely have to still be able to make it to the horse show.”
2. You refuse to use the transportation company you hired and find that a local horse trainer with a reputation for keeping her horses properly vaccinated and healthy has an open spot on her trailer. She’s leaving the next morning, but losing a day at the show is better than having your horse get sick. You later find out that the hauling company has a reputation for substandard cleaning practices that have led to several cases of infectious disease spread. You’ve dodged a bullet.
“Electing not to put your horse on that van is good horsemanship and demonstrates that your concern for your horse’s well-being is more important than attending any single event,” says Loving. “This is a red flag that this transport company should not be used now or in the future. Word-of-mouth (which can also include online reviews such as on Google) can help horse owners find an appropriate transport company, as well as help weed out those that are undesirable.”
Unexpected Diet Changes
Once you arrive at the show, you stop by the office to fill out paperwork and purchase extra bedding and hay. You only shipped in a few days’ worth of supplies with your horse because this venue typically sources the same hay as you do. Your heart sinks when the office staff tells you the hay is a different type than what you had been told and were expecting.
“My horse can’t handle a sudden hay change,” you say. “What if he colics?” The staff member shrugs and asks you to decide quickly if you want the hay because the line behind you is growing. Do you:
- Purchase and feed the hay anyway? See No. 3.
- Decide to find another hay source that’s similar in type to your horse’s regular grass hay? See No. 4.
This article continues in the June 2019 issue of The Horse: Your Guide to Equine Health Care. Subscribe now and get an immediate download of this issue, including this in-depth article, to continue your path through the sticky scenarios.