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Transporting a mare and foal

From: Jocelyn

Dear Jessica, last year I bought a wonderful mare at an auction. She was pregnant at the time and we didn't know that, and then we didn't know if she or the foal would make it, but she is in great shape now and her foal is incredibly, amazingly adorable. I love them both so much! My question is about transporting them. I have been keeping them at a friend's barn while my barn was being finished and my pasture was being fenced. I thought it would take a few weeks, well thank heavens for patient friends because with one delay after another it ended up taking more like five months before everything was ready for my horses. Okay, so now I have my very own barn and pasture, and I need to take my mare and her foal there. Easy, right? But I am very nervous about this. It is not even very far from where they are now, just about twenty miles. My husband says that if I'm going to be this nervous, I can just lead them home and he will follow in the truck with his lights flashing. I am trying not to be silly about this but I am so worried about an accident happening, what if the mare steps on her foal in the trailer (her little filly is not even five months old yet, and she is REALLY little, as in TINY) and breaks her leg, what if the filly hits her head on the underside of the divider or the chest bar or even gets thrown into a wall when the trailer goes around a turn, what if, what if, what if! My friend is going to load them into my trailer for me because I am so nervous I will probably make them so nervous they won't want to get in the trailer at all. My trailer is a two-horse, it is an old-fashioned straight load trailer. It has chest bars and butt bars and a center partition that has some padding on the sides of it but not on the underside (like where a short foal might stand up or throw its head up and hit the partition). I can't believe how nervous I am about this.

Please can you tell me something reassuring about transporting mares and foals? I know that I can't be the only person in the world who has done this, I guess I would like to hear that hundreds of thousands of people do it every day and none of the horses ever get hurt. Your devoted fan, Jocelyn


Hi Jocelyn! In some ways we aren't all that different from horses - we can't think clearly when we're agitated and excited and emotional. Sit down, inhale deeply, exhale slowly, try to keep your mind on your breathing, and continue to do this for at least five minutes. Okay. NOW you're ready to think about the issue of transporting your mare and foal.

I don't know about hundreds of thousands, but it's very possible that those are accurate numbers. ;-) Many people DO transport mares and foals, and this DOES happen all the time. Just as one example, it's common practice for TB mares to be bred back on their foal heat or the next heat thereafter, and sent home as soon as (and sometimes before) they are confirmed in foal, which means that a great many mares are spending time on the road with very young foals. Your foal is five months old, and she may be tiny, but she's undoubtedly a great deal stronger, more coordinated, and better balanced than some of the very young foals that ride in trailers.

If you can remove all of the partitions from your trailer - that is, take out the chest bars, the butt bars, and the center divider - then I suggest that you do so, because the very safest way for a mare and foal to travel is in a plain box with no hard objects in places that may be dangerous for a small foal.

If you can't remove the center divider, and you are really worried about your filly coming up underneath it and banging her head, you can make good use of some foam padding and some duct tape to protect her. Any hardware store can sell you both the duct tape and some flexible or rigid pipe insulation in the form of lengths of foam tubing. This tubing normally comes with a slit in it so that it can be put over a piece of pipe; if not, you can cut the slit yourself with a utility knife. A short piece of foam tubing tube can be wrapped around the crownpiece of the foal's halter to serve as a poll guard (use duct tape to hold it there), and a longer, larger piece with a wider diameter can be used along the entire underside of the divider (it will take quite a lot of duct tape to hold it there, but it can be done).

If the center divider can't be removed, you may still be able to remove the chest bar from the foal's side of the trailer (use foam and tape to cover any rigid and potentially harmful attachment points); if you can't remove it entirely, you can probably adjust it to hang next to the divider post, and use duct tape to hold it there so that it can't swing and injure the foal. If it can't be removed OR fastened safely to the divider post, leave it in place and use tubing and duct tape to create a protective layer of foam along its underside.

Drive as smoothly and carefully as you can - drive as if you had a full glass of water on the dashboard and were determined to keep it from sloshing. Nothing bad should happen when you go around a turn, because it will be so gradual and steady that both the mare and foal will be able to spread their feet and balance themselves. Be sure that you do NOT tie them - or if your divider's configuration dictates that you tie the mare, tie ONLY the mare, not the foal.

If your horses' new home is only twenty miles from their present home, make the trip at a time of day when there is the least possible amount of traffic present, keep your lights and flashers on, and drive as slowly as possible.

You are very sensible to have a friend come and help load your horses for you - you're absolutely right about the effect of a nervous, upset handler on horses. Your horses are lucky to have such a kind and concerned owner. Relax, and you'll soon be enjoying the sight of your mare and foal in their own barn and pasture.

Jessica

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