Safe Travels With Baby

Think about horse health when you're preparing to haul your weanling.

It’s a long way from Lincoln, California, where I fit my halter horses, to any of the weanling futurities or the AQHA World Championship Show.

Through the years, I’ve learned how to travel long distances safely with a baby. Everything I’m going to tell you is something I’ve learned the hard way, through a baby becoming injured, stressed or dying.

Hauling Loose

I designed my main trailer and had it built with babies in mind, complete with side access so I can get to the weanlings that are in the front compartments without going through the back. The trailer is set up so I can put three compartments in it, each 7’6” x 8’, so each baby has almost an 8-foot-by-8-foot stall to roam.

I need all that room because I’m hauling the babies loose. All horses, but weanlings especially, need to cough out all the dust from their food and environment. If they take it in, they need to cough it out. If you haul a baby with his head tied, he can’t cough it out, and he can get pneumonia.

Years ago, we used to haul weanlings to shows with their heads tied, and when we arrived, the baby was stressed out, sick and about 2 inches around in the loin. When a weanling arrives at a show stressed, he’s not going to show as well, and he can become sick and die. Hauling tied is enough stress on grown horses. Babies don’t need it.

If your trailer doesn’t have box-stall compartments, see if you can remove some dividers to give your weanlings more room.

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The next thing we do is attach a big piece of plywood across the rubber mat at the lower edge of the divider so that the weanlings won’t slide through. If they lay down and get their legs under the divider, they can end up in the next stall. That happened to me once going to Elko, Nevada. I was hauling a mare and a baby in the back, and when I felt movement, I stopped and looked back in the trailer. The baby had been in the very back with his mother, but he had slid through two compartments and was in the front stall with another horse.

From then on, we put up the stiff wood. We got the plywood at a lumber yard, cut to the width of the trailer, and then we trim it at home if we need to.

When I sell a weanling, I make sure to help my customers attach the wood to their trailers. It doesn’t take us long to trim the wood and attach it to the trailer, but for your first time, you’ll want to leave an afternoon to adjust it to your rig.

Baby Bumpers

I put foam rubber on every possible edge or bracket in the compartment where a weanling is going to ride, and then I wrap that in duct tape.

I like to put my hag bag up high so the weanlings don’t strike at it and get their legs caught. I put the hay in one corner, a bucket of grain in another corner and a water bucket in the third corner. The bucket handle corners are taped and foam-wrapped, because they’re at the right level to tear a weanling’s eye open. We’ll often put a wood block in those corners and tape to make it larger and less likely to bump the baby’s eye. Again, we use foam rubber and tape freely.

The snaps we use are turned back, facing the trailer and not the weanling, so that the thumb lever doesn’t catch an eye.

Even in a stall, I’m careful to put my snaps facing out. As I said, many of the things I do are because of bad experiences.

Some of the water sloshes out of the water bucket, but the weanling will be able to get a drink if he needs one. There will be a few inches in the bottom, and he won’t go thirsty.

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When I haul babies, I find that they drink more when I’m stopped. They’ll eat their hay and grain as we’re going down the road. They’ll sniff around and inspect the place for the first five miles for so, and then they settle down.

One advantage I have is my Ford pickup with the display in the console. I have two cameras in the trailer, and Western Hauler hooked them up to the Ford display module. If I feel a horse moving around, I can look down and check what’s going on with my cameras.

It’s great with Ford. You don’t have an additional big screen, it’s just right there in the dash. Ford’s the only company that has that display.

If I can, I like to put my pony horse in the trailer with the foals. If I’m hauling one weanling, I’ll put the older horse in the front and the weanling in the middle. If I’m hauling two weanlings, I’ll put them in the front two compartments and the older horse in the back.

Either way, when we’re stopped, the weanlings nicker and talk to the older horse. They

know him, and that adds to the comfort factor.

I don’t haul two babies in the same compartment. I could, but I don’t. It’s ideal for them to have that companionship, but there’s no way to keep them from chewing each other’s tail off.

I’ve hauled weanlings this way all the way from Lincoln, California, to the All American Quarter Horse Congress. That’s more than 2,000 miles, and I’m confident the way I’m hauling is the safest way possible to get the weanlings to the show so they’re well-rested, healthy and ready to show.