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Mare and foal in trailer

From: Noreen

Dear Jessica, I have one mare and her four month old foal, and I am getting ready to move and take them with me. I have a good truck and a wide two-horse trailer. The distance involved will be about 200 miles.

I have several questions about this journey. First, how can I get the foal into the trailer? I know I should have been trailer-training him for the last couple of months, but trying to get a household moved is complicated and I just never did find the time to do this. Now we're finally moving away from our apartment and boarding barn and going to our very own house and piece of land with a barn and pasture. Once he is in the trailer, what kind of stuff should I put on the floor? Are shavings okay, or should I use straw? We don't have any straw around here and I was wondering if grass hay would be okay? Now for the big question, should I tie the mare, the foal, or both of them? I am getting conflicting advice from every single person at this barn, and I don't know what to do. I decided just to ask ONE person I trust and take that person's advice. That person is you.

Hi Noreen! Getting a foal into a trailer is usually quite easy: You load the mare first, and you wait two or three seconds. The foal will join her. ;-)

Shavings will be fine, and straw would be fine - all you want to do is try to keep the trailer floor and/or mats from becoming slippery. Grass hay would probably work well too, but the other two options would be preferable because you don't want the horses spending their time trying to eat.. which they might do.

I wouldn't tie either animal. First of all, don't even THINK about tying the foal. Second, think long and hard before you tie your mare, and do it only if there's an absolutely compelling reason. Under normal circumstances, and given a stock trailer or a wide two-horse (remove the partition for the trip if you can; if it can't be removed, at least tie it firmly over to the side AWAY from the road), a mare and foal will do very nicely untied. If your mare is known to turn around and attempt to leap out of trailers, the normal option would be to close the trailer's storm doors - but in summer heat, that's not a good choice even with all of the windows and vents open and a trailer fan running full-time. If you have grills or screens that you can use in place of the storm doors, use them.

If your mare has a habit of leaping out over trailer doors and taking off for parts unknown, and you're convinced that you must tie her, you'll need to find a way to ensure that her foal cannot get near the rope or trailer-tie that's keeping his mother in the trailer and facing forward. Foals are remarkably agile, flexible, and determined, and they'll rear and buck and climb in their attempts to get closer to their mothers... and in so doing, they can easily become tangled in their mothers' lead ropes. In this situation, the results can be painful, damaging, and even fatal results. It's not a risk I'd want to take.

If your mare is the quiet sort who will load calmly and haul calmly and remain quiet as long as she knows that her foal is with her, then your task is simple: Create as much room as you can in the trailer, and let both mare and foal go loose. They'll find their own balance more easily this way, and be able to turn and stand in the most comfortable direction. Mares are actually LESS likely to step on their foals if they can move freely and use their heads and necks for balance - it's more dangerous to have mares tied short and unable to balance themselves. The rest is up to you - drive as if you had a full travel mug of water balanced on the dashboard and would get a prize for not spilling any water. Or you could actually PUT a full travel mug of water on your dashboard and do your best to avoid spilling any water. ;-) Either way, drive carefully, be safe, have a good trip, and congratulations on moving to your very own house and land!


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