Dear Jessica, can you and Horse Sense help me? I have a problem that sounds very strange, but it's serious. My horse will not urinate when he is in the trailer, and I need a way to "train" him to urinate before we leave a show. We live at least four hours from almost all of the shows I go to, so it's a long trailer ride. Shadow gets really frantic when he has to urinate, but he just won't go until he is in his stall or in a stall at the show. Do you have any secrets to tell me about how to get Shadow to urinate before we leave? Or is there some way to get him to urinate while we travel? Would it help if we stopped along the way and took him out of the trailer? My Dad says there is no way to "command" a horse to urinate. Please help me.
Jaquie and Shadow (crossing his legs in the trailer)
Hi Jaquie! This isn't strange or even unusual; there are a lot of horses like Shadow. But yes, there are things you can do.
At the racetrack, where horses must provide urine samples after races, grooms teach their horses to associate the act with the groom's whistling. It's not hard to do this -- you just whistle whenever you see Shadow urinating, until he begins to associate the action with the sound. This usually doesn't take long.
Travelling is another matter, but you can encourage Shadow to urinate during the trip. Don't stop and take him OFF the trailer -- it's really much safer to leave him ON the trailer until you get home. But you can stop for a little while somewhere, at a rest stop or roadside services, and park well away from everyone else so that the trailer won't rock when other vehicles pass it. This will give Shadow a chance to relax his muscles, and he may take advantage of the opportunity to urinate. Horses in moving trailers are constantly doing isometric exercise just to stay standing and balanced! If everything is still and quiet for ten or fifteen minutes, Shadow will be able to relax, and he can't urinate until he relaxes.
Bedding in the trailer is another issue. Horses dislike getting splashed with urine, and they will often avoid urinating until they get into their stalls, not just because the stall is a familiar place, but because of the absorbent bedding. If you put several inches of shavings into Shadow's trailer, it will provide an absorbent cushion that will encourage him to urinate. A comfortable horse is much more likely to relax, etc.
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