Emergency transport - what's your plan?

A weekend on call reminded me recently of the importance of our clients having a plan on transporting their horse or pony in an emergency situation. Is it something you have thought about? Would you have transport available if your vet advised your horse needed moving urgently to a veterinary clinic, or referring as an emergency to an equine hospital? I remember when my old horse was retired from work and he was no longer going out competing or going to training, we thought seriously about selling our trailer, but I was always keen to to keep it, just in case he ever needed to be taken somewhere in an emergency. In fact the trailer is still on my parent's driveway many years later (!), even though we sadly had to say goodbye to him a few years ago... maybe I will need it again someday if I take up the reins again!

Examples of situations where we may advise urgent referral for your horse or pony most commonly include: moderate to severe colic cases which have not responded to medical treatment for further investigation, intensive care/monitoring or sometimes surgery, and wounds which require surgical treatment, such as wounds involving joints or tendon sheaths. In these situations time can be of the essence - long delays with transport may affect your horse's prognosis, particularly in the case of a surgical colic.

Some of you may be lucky enough to have transport readily available, but obviously not everybody has their own horse box or trailer - in this situation we would advise having a plan with a friend or family member who may be able to help out, or alternatively details of transport companies saved in your phone or in a safe place at your yard to contact in an emergency situation.

The other important thing is to make sure the vehicle you would be using is in good working order and ready to use, as there may not be time to think about this in an emergency. You should regularly check the windscreen, lights, brakes, indicators, tyres, floor, ramps, latches, number plate, hitch and towbar

My top tips for safe and stress free journeys with your horse or pony:

  • ensure you know where the keys are for your horse box or trailer lock - you would be suprised how often keys cannot be found, especially when people are stressed in an emergency situation
  • make sure you know how to remove the wheel/towbar lock on your trailer easily, and keep the lock in good working order
  • know how to remove or alter the position of partitions in your horse box or trailer
  • make sure the horse box is fueled, or your car for towing has enough fuel in it
  • ensure the tyres are in good condition and well inflated (and check the spare tyre too)
  • make sure the your horse box or trailer is empty and usable - you do not want to have to empty the trailer of feed, bedding, jumps, or even furniture from a recent house move (!) in an emergency as this may be in the middle of the night or bad weather
  • make sure you clean your horse box or trailer after each use so it is clean and dry and ready to use, and doesn't suddenly need cleaning out following your last journey
  • make sure your horse's passport is to at hand to take with you (and insurance documents if applicable)
  • have your horse box or trailer regularly serviced (at least annually depending on mileage) to avoid some of these situations....
  • make sure you have breakdown cover for your horse box or trailer, and keep the details easily accessible
  • keep your mobile phone well charged, or have a charger at the yard or in your car/horse box so that you can re-charge it in an emergency
  • use a quick release knot or quick release tie to tie your horse up at an appropriate length
  • ensure haynets are fastened securely (check with your vet before travel whether it is appropriate for your horse to eat on the journey)

And finally - million dollar question - does your horse load??? Having a horse or pony which refuses to load in an emergency just adds to the stress of a situation - so please get practisising if your horse or pony does not do this easily! We can, and often need to, sedate horses to travel in an emergency - but it is still better if they are happy to walk onto the box or trailer without a big drama.

We hope an emergency situation does not arise for any of our clients, but it is much better to be prepared. Please do contact us if you need any contact details for local horse transport companies in advance.

Finally, Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year to you all - as ever we are on duty 24/7 for your emergencies over the festive period should you need us - just call 07747771182.

Jess x