1. I use bedding pellets in my trailer. Not only are they comfortable for my horse, they are also extremely easy to clean up. Under my regular mat I use foam padding similar to what wrestlers or gymnasts use.
2. Make sure when you buy a trailer, it has plenty of vents so your horse has plenty of air. Today, fans can even be installed in your trailer. I like drop-down windows on the back side, and also in front with screens or bars to prevent the horse from sticking his head out the window.
3. When you need to stop overnight, it is safer and more secure to stop at rodeo grounds or private facilities than roadside parks or service stations. If you have a safe, comfortable trailer, you can leave things inside and not worry as much about break-ins.
4. Much like a person, a horse can get off his regular diet because of different conditions, such as illness, weather, and travel conditions. Take a little extra feed with you, such as plain oats, to change him up for a couple of days, and then go back to your regular feed. It is important to maintain your regular feeding program and schedule as closely as possible.
5. When you travel, keep an extra pair of horseshoes with you that your farrier has fit to your horse. Also, carry your own puller, hammer, file and nails. If I lose a shoe and I have the tools and extra shoes, I can usually find someone who knows enough to put one on for me.
6. Horses must have water while traveling. If your horse goes off of water, try putting some Kool-Aid in your water (to disguise the taste of water he’s not familiar with). Use your imagination to get your horse to drink. If nothing seems to work, get a large syringe (without the needle, of course) and squirt water into your horse’s mouth. A little water is better than none.
7. Keep the temperature in your trailer as comfortable as possible for your horse. I have a thermometer inside my trailer. I also have a camera where I can watch my horse and see the temperature reading on the thermometer from inside my motor home. If it gets too warm or too cold, I will know immediately and can make adjustments, like adding a blanket if it’s too cold, or opening windows if it’s too warm. Always remember, too cool is better than too warm.
8. Keep hay in a hanging bag in front of your horse. This keeps him from being bored and also helps prevent ulcers. It’s OK to wet your hay a little, too. This will give your horse some hydration, even if he isn’t drinking.
9. Have a buddy plan! With two people checking these things, you are twice as likely to catch any potential problems early.
10. Check your air pressure and the condition of your tires, make sure all gates, doors, and windows are securely closed, and check your hitch before you leave and while on the road.
11. Have a list of everything you need on the road and at your destination, such as equipment, grooming items, leg care, feed, medication, and your barrel racing outfit and hat. You can find a complete checklist on page 119 of my book, “Run to Win with Me.”
12. Know where to find what you need. Years ago we used to have to call ahead to find places to stop for the night or buy feed. With modern technology, there are websites and apps that will help you find anything equine-related you may need on the road, such as equine veterinarians, vet hospitals, trailer manufacturers, overnight stalls, etc. One is equineus.com, and the app can be downloaded for most smartphones.
13. Before you leave home, learn how, when, and why to correctly wrap your horses legs. Everyone should also learn the correct wraps to use. If you are unsure, or have questions, you can find a whole section about leg wrapping in my book, and you can also watch video demonstrations on my website, barrelracers.com.
14. If you stop at rodeo grounds for a short rest period, I caution against turning your horse loose in a pen, and advise hand-walking him instead. Why? Many barrel racers have turned their horses loose, and the first thing they do is roll or find another way to get tangled up in a fence or other objects. When this happens, you’ve got a sore or injured horse.
15. If you are going to stall overnight, make sure the stalls are safe. Make sure there is not old, molded feed or hay in the manger or on the ground. Check for any objects on the ground that would be dangerous to your horse, and check for nails or sharp objects around the stall. Be safe, not sorry.
16. When you decide to stop for the night, it’s better to stop before dark so you can check everything out. Inspect your vehicle, trailer, and horse, and check out the area around you. It’s better to stop early and leave early than to stop late and leave late.
Hauling your horse safely is a huge part of preparing for competition. In order to win, you have to be prepared. I never wanted to be at a barrel race and be outrun by someone who was more prepared than I, and I know as a barrel racer, you don’t either.
I sincerely hope this list of tips will help you before and during your hauls. R.E. and I have practiced things written on this list had over 50 years, and while it won’t completely eliminate the issues you might encounter on the road, it will help you avoid many. Remember, haul to win!