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Ep. 039: Feeding Tips for Short Travel with Horses and What It Takes to Fly Internationally

Co-host Katy Starr chats with equine nutritionist, Dr. Stephen Duren, PhD, MS, PAS about traveling domestically what international travel is like with horses, including: • What are the physiological effects of horses during transport? • Should we feed our horses the morning of a trip? • What can we do if we can’t get our horse to drink water when traveling? • How is preparation for international travel different from our general domestic travel?

Episode Notes

On this episode, co-host Katy Starr chats with equine nutritionist, Dr. Stephen Duren, PhD, MS, PAS about traveling domestically what international travel is like with horses, including:


• What are the physiological effects of horses during transport?

• Should we feed our horses the morning of a trip?

• What can we do if we can’t get our horse to drink water when traveling?  

• How is preparation for international travel different from our general domestic travel?


Have any topics you want to hear more about? Let us know at


Additional Resources:

  1. “Traveling with your Horse: What about Water?” blog post -
  2. “Top 3 Tips for Traveling with your Horse” blog post -




  • *Views and opinions expressed by guests are their own and do not necessarily reflect the view of Standlee Premium Products, LLC.*

Katy Starr (00:01):

Hi, I'm Katy


Dr. Tania Cubitt (00:02):

And I'm Dr. Cubitt. We're going Beyond the Barn. Come join us on this journey, as we bust equine and livestock nutrition, myths and interview some of the most intriguing experts in the country.


Katy Starr (00:15):

We'll go behind the scenes of how premium Western quality forage is grown and brought to your favorite farm and ranch retail store. We're so glad you're here. Welcome back to another episode of Beyond the Barn, Dr. Duren you are back with us again. Thanks for joining us.


Dr. Stephen Duren (00:35):

Thanks for having me.


Katy Starr (00:37):

Today, we are going to discuss a little bit about traveling with horses, and I know we touched on a couple of these things in our previous episode, but this one is going to get a little bit more in depth on the topic, focusing a lot on the nutrition aspect of it, but you're also fairly well versed in traveling with horses in general. And so I think you can provide some really great insight for us and our listeners just about traveling tips in general, but then also something that we don't often get to hear about, how it works when we're traveling with horses internationally, because that's not an opportunity that most people get to experience. And so I think this is going to be a really cool episode today.


Dr. Stephen Duren (01:19):

Well, good. I hope I can help.


Katy Starr (01:21):

And for our listeners, any of the topics that we cover on the Beyond the Barn podcast are more generalized and not specific to any individual horse or any specific situation. Be sure to always work with your veterinarian and nutritionist before making any drastic changes to your horse's feet program. Or you can reach out to talk to us directly with Dr. Cubitt or Dr. Duren on any specifics that you'd like to know. So Dr. Duren we are in the season of travel right now with horses going to shows competitions, lots of trail riding. What are some of the physiological effects of horses during transport?


Dr. Stephen Duren (02:01):

Well, Katy, this is a subject that has received quite a bit of study as of late. And there are a number of different physiologic responses that horses will have to the whole transportation process. And a lot of this depends on the experience or how much the horses have been traveled. Horses have a tendency to get used to travel and become more accustomed to it. But there are several things that have been noted in research papers. The first is an increased heart rate and that heart rate is elevated more or more pronounced at the start of a trip as they get used to moving, being loaded in the transport, whether it's a trailer or an airplane or whatever. And then as they get more experienced that heart rate won't go up quite as high. There's a general dehydration that can occur with travel that is monitored by monitoring total broad protein.


Dr. Stephen Duren (02:56):

And they can tell if a horse becomes dehydrated and we have found in studies that they become dehydrated, even if we're providing them water or those horses that are unwatered during transport. Horses can have a loss of body weight, depending on the length or duration of travel. These horses can lose anywhere between three, up to four and a half percent of their body weight. Again, this depends on how far they're traveling, heat and humidity, and also whether they're being fed. There's a fair amount of stress can be involved in trailering, and that stress is monitored by monitoring cortisol levels in the blood, which is the stress hormone, if you will. As you would guess, there's also stress or physiologic change to the respiratory track inside a trailer, inside an airplane, there's an increased amount of allergen dust, bacteria, ammonia, all are concentrated, and often they have to breathe and rebreathe this air. The other thing is with trailers that are ventilated, there's a lot of air moving through there, so there's drying of the airways as well. Then with respect to feed, horses certainly won't eat as well in a trailer or an airplane as they eat at their home stall or their home pasture. Water intake is also reduced either because they're not offered water or the water tastes different or they're moving and don't want to drink. So those are some of the general physiologic responses that happen.


Katy Starr (04:30):

And you had said, even though, you know, we may be giving them water and they might be drinking water, they could still become dehydrated. Could that be maybe because of that extra stress they might be experiencing that might make them sweat more possibly, or what do you think could be the reason for that?


Dr. Stephen Duren (04:48):

So the dehydration certainly can be a function of sweat. The other thing is the very act oftransportation, the increase in cortisol, the stimulation of smooth muscle contraction within the digestive system, actually increases fecal water, increases the amount of water that they excrete. So they're losing water from that as well.


Katy Starr (05:13):

Oh, very interesting. Okay. So then if we're, you know, getting ready to go on a trip and this could be the night before or whenever the time is right to kind of start preparing for travel, how could we best prepare our horses for travel to, you know, have a smooth trip, no issues, hopefully, and just make it the least stressful that we can on our horses.


Dr. Stephen Duren (05:36):

Katy, what I typically do is I use a 12 hour window prior to transportation and what I want to accomplish in that 12 hours prior to any trip or any travel, is I want to make sure that that horse is well hydrated and I want make sure that his digestive system is full of high-quality fiber. So having the digestive system full of fiber or giving that horse free-access to fiber in that 12 hours prior to transit, he's going to eat a lot of high-quality hay. That high-quality hay will stimulate him to drink. Okay. So that will stimulate him to become hydrated. In addition, that fiber in the digestive system actually holds water that he can call upon, or it can call upon in times of dehydration to maintain proper hydration levels. So that 12 hours prior to a trip, you want to make sure your horse has free-access to high-quality forage and he has access to fresh, clean water and unlimited supply.


Dr. Stephen Duren (06:37):

Then we want to feed the normal grain meal in the evening prior to transport. So nothing changes from the horse. He's got lots of hay, free choice water. He gets his normal grain or supplement meal. In addition to that, we add an electrolyte paste. So we will give him an electrolyte paste when we know that he's eating normally and drinking normally, we'll go ahead and give him a tube of electrolyte paste. And then many professional competitors will also give a first dose of ulcer medication in that 12 hour, prior to transport, window.


Katy Starr (07:19):

And those are horses that are probably higher risk for ulcers in general, because of just how, the intensity of their work?


Dr. Stephen Duren (07:29):

Well, you would think that, but studies have actually revealed that lots of horses get ulcers during transport, but it's only some of the very high-end horses that you notice a performance difference. So if you're taking your horse, he gets a slight ulcer or a low-grade ulcer, he can heal from that and it won't affect his exercise performance. On the other hand, if it's a horse that his exercise performance is measured in seconds and quickness is an issue, sometimes an ulcer can actually throw those horses off their game just enough that they're not competitive.


Katy Starr (08:07):

Right. Yeah. I could see that. And then when it comes to just, you know, kind of keeping, you know, checks on your horse and you know, what's working for them, what's normal, or if any issues arise, what do you kind of recommend on that front?


Dr. Stephen Duren (08:23):

Yeah. So we'll also start a monitoring program. We'll continue to monitor body temperature. So just a thermometer and keeping records of rectal temperature that will be an indice or an indicator of sickness. We also monitor feed intake, you know, your horse you're around your horse all the time. If all of a sudden your horse isn't eating normally or drinking normally, it can be an indication that sickness is coming, or the horse is already sick.


Katy Starr (08:55):

Oh, okay. And so those are kind of your recommendations about 12 hours prior, you had mentioned, morning of, let's say, you know, you're starting your trip early the next day. Do you feed normally that morning? Or what are your recommendations once we get to the morning of the trip?


Dr. Stephen Duren (09:12):

Okay. So when I walk out of the house in the morning, what I want to find when I get to that horse's stall is that he still has hay left over and he still has obviously water left over. That's very important. What I don't like to do the morning of transport, is I don't want to give that horse a grain meal. So I'll skip his morning grain meal. And the reason again goes back to that stimulation of smooth muscle contraction that happens when a horse becomes nervous when he starts a trip, it will stimulate the motility of the small intestine and the digestive tract, and actually push that grain meal from the small intestine where it's supposed to be digested, it will push it into the hind gut and you can get a colic or a laminitic episode that can occur. So your horse is in good body condition, just skip the breakfast grain, make sure he’s had hay all night and water. That's what you want to do.


Katy Starr (10:10):

Okay. And you had mentioned making sure that you walk in there and you see left over hay and water, but also noting how much you left there the night before, because if you left enough there that it didn't seem like they really ate much or drank much, I mean, that probably could be an issue. But I think the point you're trying to get across is that you're giving them enough that they have more than enough to eat and drink overnight that, you know, they have all that they could ever want. Basically.


Dr. Stephen Duren (10:37):

Absolutely. And we need to remember, your listeners need to remember, that the easiest way to stimulate a horse to drink, is by providing him forage that chewing causes a production of saliva, which will actually stimulate the thirst response. So that hay is very important both to fill the horse up and provide nutrition, but also to stimulate normal drinking behavior. So that horse is again well hydrated when they step on the transport.


Katy Starr (11:05):

Excellent. And like I mentioned earlier, we talked a little bit about this during our previous episode, but I still want to touch on it again, since we've had a little bit of a break on the podcast and it's been a few weeks, but how should we feed and water our horse during the actual trip? We can maybe just start off with an example for a short trip of just a few hours.


Dr. Stephen Duren (11:28):

Yeah. So if it is a short trip, so you're going for a trail ride or you're going to a competition or some sort of show that's within three to four hours of home, feed and water on the trailer is not necessary. In other words, that horse can fast for three hours can actually be without water for three hours and get along just fine. The only caveat to that is if it's very hot and humid, I won't offer that horse forage, but I will offer that horse water.


Katy Starr (12:00):

Okay. Yeah, because if you feed them forage, then it's going to make them need more water and want more water.


Dr. Stephen Duren (12:08):

Or worse you feed them forage and then you take off back on your trip and you either didn't offer water or the water you offered wasn't palatable to them or they didn't drink. Now they have dry forage in their digestive tract without water, and then they can have an impaction colic. So if you feed one, you've got to feed the other. So if you feed forage, you've got to feed water. On the other hand, you can always offer water by itself.


Katy Starr (12:37):

Right. And colic is bad enough as it is. But if you throw that into a trip where you're not at home with your vet, your normal vet and all of that, that creates so much more of an issue for you than you ever wanted to even have.


Dr. Stephen Duren (12:52):

Absolutely, it's compounded the horse is in a strange environment, the owners in a strange environment and the stress levels high, both for the horse as well as the owner. So it's certainly unpleasant.


Katy Starr (13:03):

Right. And I want to ask you almost play a little bit of devil's advocate a little bit here, because you say it's okay, you know, three to four hours or so for the horse, not to be able to eat, but I know we also talk about how it's important to keep forage in the digestive system. So is that timeframe in this instance, as long as it's not a consistent thing, is that something that is okay for horses and horse owners to do?


Dr. Stephen Duren (13:33):

I think what you're doing, Katy, is you're picking the less of two evils. If I provide hay to a horse in a trailer and I either don't provide water or the horse doesn't drink water, my risk of impaction colic, it goes up significantly. So that's the risk of providing forage and either no water or forage and him not drinking water. On the other hand, if he's fasted, not given anything during that trip, he runs the risk of, of developing an ulcer. As I mentioned before, in that 12 hour protocol, he gets his first dose of ulcer medication in that 12 hours. He gets his second one when he gets on the trailer. I forgot to mention that. So the horse is going to be treated. So I will take the risk of an ulcer, knowing that I can medicate rather than a colic and not know if he's going to drink.


Katy Starr (14:29):

Right. That's a really good point. So I'm really glad that we talked about that because I know in that situation, I think I'd rather deal with an ulcer than a colic that you never know how bad it could get and if your horse would even make it, right? So, excellent.


Dr. Stephen Duren (14:44):

Yeah. And again, it's just, it's picking, I guess the worst of two evils, you know, we can't have a perfect environment, so how can we minimize risk? And I think in my mind that's a lower risk.


Katy Starr (14:56):

No, and that makes sense, especially when we're, I mean, traveling with horses, right? That's like modern horse ownership, you know, it's not how they're out in the wild, how they normally are free to graze all the time. And so when we take horses into our world, we have to understand that we're changing who they're meant to be sometimes in a sense. And so that makes complete sense to me. And then how about if we have a trip that's maybe longer than three to four hours, how do you recommend feeding, watering in that type of situation?


Dr. Stephen Duren (15:30):

So for the longer trips, what I typically recommend is that we're stopping every three to four hours. And when we stop that trailer and we stop the movement and you know, the shaking and normal road movement, then we can offer feed and water to that horse. If you're the least bit concerned to whether that horse will drink, then I have a tendency to provide the forage in a soaked physical form. I'll either wet down the hay. I'll either feed the hay in a clean muck bucket where it's actually submerged in water or I'll feed hay pellets or hay cubes that are completely hydrated or completely soaked with water. Another forage alternative that you can use is you can use soaked beet pulp. It is a very dehydrated fiber source. When you add water, it swells up and takes on a lot of water. That's a great way to at least make sure what's going in is moist for that horse.


Katy Starr (16:30):



Dr. Stephen Duren (16:30):

Water intake can be a trick. A lot of the modern trailers are equipped with a water reservoir where you can bring water from home. So those horses are used to the actual water that they have at the farm or the stable. If not, and you don't have that luxury, you're going to have to change the water source, so often my clients will flavor water. They'll start this practice at home for two or three weeks where they'll use a sports drink, a Gatorade, or one of those type of deals. They'll add that a small amount to the water source. And then when you add that same amount to a foreign water source, you mask the taste. So again, something you'd practice at home before you did that, because you certainly wouldn't want to stop that horse from drinking. So again, practice at home, giving that horse more experience will lessen the stress when you're on the road.


Katy Starr (17:25):

Right. No, that's great. It reminds me of trying to give medication to my kids. I gotta trick them and put it in juice, and then they just think they're drinking juice.


Dr. Stephen Duren (17:36):

Exactly. And it's the same thing, you know, but if you know that that's going work when you're home, and you have a chance to practice that it's much easier than just saying, boy, I hope this works. When you're on the road, at least you have some knowledge that is likely to work.


Katy Starr (17:50):

Right. And you talked about this a little bit on our previous episode, but I'd like you to chat about it again as well for anybody who maybe missed that episode. And I know you talk about this being your personal opinion, but I think you make some really valid points that horse owners should consider about, you know, reasons why you prefer not to feed horses in a trailer.


Dr. Stephen Duren (18:14):

Yeah. And again, this is my personal opinion, but the hanging, particularly of hay nets, I've seen a lot of hay nets that are hung at a level, you know, certainly where you don't want a horse to get his leg in it or get tangled up in it. So they're typically brought up to at least shoulder height and sometimes higher. And then the trailer windows are left open or there's slots in the trailer or transport where air moves through that when you're going down the highway, and what happens is that blows through that forage, that hay net and all that dust and debris goes right in the respiratory tract of the horse. So I'm not a big fan on that. And I know lots of people feed in the trailer and they get along fine, but I've also had a lot of competitive horses, both that I've owned, as well as horses that I've consult with, get a slight respiratory issue. And it can really derail performance when we're at the higher rungs of performance,


Katy Starr (19:09):

Right. Something to consider anyway. So I'm glad that you discussed that with us. And then how about if we're making significantly longer trips, so maybe 12 hours or more, what do you recommend for feeding and watering?


Dr. Stephen Duren (19:24):

Typically what I do, if I'm having to go with a horse over 12 hours, I actually plan to stop overnight. I'd like to get those horses where they can be unloaded, unloaded into a safe area, whether it's a horse motel with a nice stable or nice paddocks that they can go into or turn out pens where they can go into. And this allows the horse to get his head on the ground, to put his head down and helps him clear dust and debris from his respiratory track. Those horses are fed on the ground. So it's a great opportunity. And you'll actually hear them exhaling. You'll hear them actually moving material out of their respiratory track. So that's very important when I feed those horses again, I feed everything wet. I want to keep as much hydration in those horses as possible. And then of course, the things that we've monitored or began to monitor before the horse ever got on the trailer, we’ll continue to monitor those, body temperature, water intake, feed intake, we’ll look at the manure, you know, is the manure dried out considerably, is it very hard and no moisture and in to see the horses becoming dehydrated? Or is it still normal texture?


Katy Starr (20:35):

Right. So you have actually mentioned each of these issues as we've been speaking so far, but just to kind of sum up, just for awareness, because I think it's always good to be better prepared than not prepared enough. I think, especially when you're traveling with livestock and I'd say honestly, traveling with kids just from my personal experience. So , but there are a few common issues that you had mentioned. Can you share altogether in this question? What are some of those common issues that we just need to be aware of when we're traveling with our horses?


Dr. Stephen Duren (21:10):

Yeah, I think there's what I call the big three things that could happen or typically happen with horses in a transport situation. And the first is a colic and more specifically, it's an impaction colic, and this is caused from the consumption of dry feed without adequate water intake. So we don't ever want to offer dry feed to a horse without water or without knowing he's going to drink. If you're even remotely concerned, soak the forage, soak the pellets, soak the cubes and offer it in a moist form. We typically want to offer that forage and the water when the trailer is not moving. Okay. When a horse is nervous in a trailer and he's got a hay net in front of him, he's going to eat hay all the time. Is he going to drink out of a bucket? That's splashing, not a chance. Okay.


Dr. Stephen Duren (22:04):

So again, that's another reason I don't like to put the hay in front of them without knowing they're going to eat, or drink water. The second thing that can commonly happen is respiratory issues, okay. Debris that comes from a hay net that may be hung in a ventilation spot or just the normal allergens dust, et cetera, associated with being in a trailer can cause respiratory disease in horses. The very fact of drying out the respiratory system from having their nose in the wind when he is being in a trailer can cause drying as well. So a lot of our major horse transports they'll actually put bedding in a trailer or a transport vehicle. And they'll actually wet that be, they'll actually make that. So you're not getting dust associated with it. And then certainly we need to make sure our trailers are clean. You know, we want a horse to go into a clean trailer at the beginning of transport.


Dr. Stephen Duren (23:02):

Once we're done hauling that horse before we haul him home, take a minute and completely clean that trailer back out. So you don't have that ammonia and things that are respiratory irritants. And then the final of what I call the big three that can happen with those horses is they can get ulcers. Lot of research studies have shown that that's a prime time for horses to get ulcers is during transport. So talking with your veterinarian, getting on an ulcer prevention program or ulcer medication prior to, during, and after transport actually is very appropriate. And if you're on those, remember you don't suddenly stop those. You have to wean the horse off of those. So you don't get a rapid flush of stomach acid.


Katy Starr (23:46):

Right. Well, and hopefully everybody's working with their veterinarian as they should be with that type of situation as well.


Dr. Stephen Duren (23:53):

I think you need to plan ahead and if you're gonna take a trip with your horse, talk to your veterinarian, know what's normal for your horse, be able to monitor, you know, signs of illness, speak to a nutritionist, you know, make sure that your diet is appropriate. And that's very important. It can be a team effort, but a team effort will decrease stress on you and your horse.


Katy Starr (24:15):

Right. And a lot of these tips that you've just shared with us, I think can be very relevant for each one of us that are listening into this episode today. Now I want to get into the international side of things, not something that most of us will ever get to experience, but it would be cool if we did, but international travel with horses because I mean, essentially this is as big of a trip as it gets. What are some of the reasons that we actually do international travel with horses? Obviously we have, you know, some of our large competitions for like the World Equestrian Games and the Olympics and things like that. But what are some reasons that people travel with their horses?


Dr. Stephen Duren (24:53):

Yeah. So international competition, whether it's on the Olympic level or the world equestrian games or it's competition in the form of racing, those are all very common reasons that that horses get on airplanes and cross international borders. The other one that a lot of people forget about is the normal movement of breeding stallions and breeding mares between hemispheres.


Katy Starr (25:20):

Oh yes.


Dr. Stephen Duren (25:21):

You may have a very valuable stallion that lives in the Northern hemisphere lives in central Kentucky, but he'll visit Australia in our non-breeding season, which by Southern hemisphere time is their breeding season. So he'll do double duty if you will, as far as breeding. So a lot of mature horses, non-competition horses, both stallions, as well as mares, will move internationally as well.


Katy Starr (25:48):

Wow. So then if you have some of those horses in that case where it's more of a singular horse versus maybe some more of the larger ones, if there's like a significant number of horses traveling together, how does that work with the airplanes? Like, are there specific ones that transport horses are there some that, you know, take horses, but they also take something else?


Dr. Stephen Duren (26:12):

Yeah, that's absolutely true. So there are companies that actually specialize in transport of horses by air internationally. And what they'll do is they'll group horses. So you may send a horse that's going to a race and he may travel with, you know, another horse that's going for a different type of competition, but going to the same country. So those companies will group those transports of horses so they're not flying alone. They're actually flying with a group of horses that are going to the same destination.


Katy Starr (26:49):

Very interesting. And before you talked earlier about the physiological effects horses experience with travel, but I'm wondering how this is impacted on the international level. Obviously it's a different type of transport. So I'm just curious if there are any things that are different with that.


Dr. Stephen Duren (27:07):

Absolutely. If a horse is traveling internationally, the levels that we'll go to, to make sure that things go appropriate are extreme to the point where, you know, if a horse has to go from Lexington, his home base, to the United Arab Emirates for a race, we’ll ship his hay, his water, a companion horse, all his feed will go with him. In addition, the transport will actually provide attendants. You can also send your own attendants that are actually in the plane, in the storage compartment with the horse. So the level that we go through to make sure that these horses are safe, that they travel well. Most of those transports will have a licensed veterinarian that travels with the cargo hold as well. So he can, if a horse is very fractious, they're in portable holding stalls that are loaded in the aircraft, but you don't want a horse to, to kick through that stall and kick a hole in the side of a plane. That's not good. So these veterinarians can tranquilize horses, can make horses more comfortable, if that's what's necessary. So international travel with horses is really cool. It's nerve-racking for, you know, the owners and the, the grooms and the competitors and that sort of thing. But those horses are extremely well taken care of.


Katy Starr (28:32):



Dr. Stephen Duren (28:33):

Another thing that may interest some of the listeners is if we're going to ship a horse from the Southern hemisphere to the Northern hemisphere to race, for instance. So we just sent horses from Australia to race in England. How do we get them on the same time schedule, we'll use artificial light and we'll wake horses up in the middle of the night, gradually wake them up with different intensities and wavelengths of light so that when they get to the destination, there's no jet lag. They're already on the time. So again, we jump through lots of hoops, if you will, to make sure these competitive horses can truly be competitive.


Katy Starr (29:13):

I'm really glad that you brought that up because I honestly, I think about that all the time when we travel for certain things, but I never would've thought about the fact that the horses probably get jet lagged. And so yeah, you definitely go to some extremes to get them prepared, to go to travel, especially long distances like that. So that's really interesting!


Dr. Stephen Duren (29:32):

You know, and then from the physiologic standpoint, do you travel and compete immediately? Or do you travel, let them acclimate and compete? Okay. So depending on the schedule of the horse and, and how long he can be out of the country, we’ll change our travel plans. You know, can we send the horse 60 days ahead of time and let the horse totally acclimatize to the new surroundings? Or do we ship him and he race in a week and be home in another week. So it depends on what we're trying to accomplish.


Katy Starr (30:06):

Wow. That's really interesting. And definitely puts a lot of things into play. When you've got to think about preparing these horses. And you also said that basically all their feeds, all their hay, all of their concentrate, whatever they're consuming, water and everything. So all of that is shipped over there enough to get them over there through the entire duration of their stay and then back.


Dr. Stephen Duren (30:29):

Yes, we can ship all of that. And so it's planning ahead. Most people, if they're going be there more than a week, won't ship the water, they'll blend them over. They'll flavor, water, and they'll do those sorts of things. But I think that's where a lot of international travel comes apart, so to speak. They'll have the horse ready to go. They'll show up at the airport and say, okay, we want to put these five bags of feed on the plane as well. And the feed hasn't been properly registered in the country that it's going, and they won't let it in. So again, working with a nutritionist, working with a veterinarian, making sure that all the paperwork is in order and you can take the feeds. The other thing is, if we know we can't take the feeds, we'll blend the horse, we'll change the horse's diet at home to what his diet will be on the road. We'll make that change when he is in his own environment and comfortable. And we can monitor him very closely. We'll change him over to the diet that he'll see in that foreign country and go from there. So again, planning's everything.


Katy Starr (31:35):

Right. And that way you can do it gradually as well. So it's not just a quick switch.


Dr. Stephen Duren (31:40):



Katy Starr (31:41):

Yeah. So you talked about paperwork for the feed, which is something that I wasn't initially thinking about. So when you're thinking about all that preparing and planning, you have paperwork for the feed that is going into the country that you're going to, is there other special paperwork that's required for the horses themselves, depending on if they have certain maybe vaccinations or anything like that?


Dr. Stephen Duren (32:07):

Absolutely horses have to have a travel passport. So they have to have all the necessary vaccines to get into a country to prevent the spread of diseases internationally. The other thing is they're quarantined. Now, horses that race are quarantined at special barns on the racetrack, and they are allowed to go to the racetrack, but only at certain times when just the international horses go, so they don't mix with the general population until they've cleared a certain time in quarantine. But that's very important from our nutrition standpoint, because oftentimes people will think about, all right, we've got the horse ready to travel. He traveled successfully. We fed him in the foreign country successfully. Now we're shipping him back and forget to have his feed in the quarantine facility. So we need to make sure that he has his proper feed in the quarantine facility as well. So again, more paperwork to make sure we get the feed into the quarantine and that horse is fed uniformly all the way through.


Katy Starr (33:11):

Right. Okay. And so speaking of, you know, eating while traveling, you talked about either they're taking over their own hay and feed and everything they need, or maybe you're switching over prior, but from a consistency standpoint, do they generally get fed on the same meal plan? Or I know we don't really like to talk about meal, like feeding in meals, but how often, I guess, is the feed given? Is it the same as when they're at home for consistency's sake? Or is that again, something that you start working with the horse beforehand to transition them over to this is, you know, how it's going to be when we're on the road and when we're traveling in the plane, and how does that get taken care of?


Dr. Stephen Duren (33:57):

Yeah. So what we do is we will try to maintain that horse's feeding and exercise schedule as close to possible as what you had at home. So we won't transition from being fed four times a day and say, Nope, you're only going get fed once. Here you go. We'll actually make sure that our staff are there or the quarantine staff or the transport staff, you know, have the feeding instructions. So we provide those to them before the horse ever gets on the plane.


Katy Starr (34:26):

Okay. So generally then the grooms are the ones that are in charge of making sure those horses are getting their adequate meals and everything.


Dr. Stephen Duren (34:33):

Exactly. So they're, you know, letting the staff, but if the grooms aren't on the plane, if it's transportation staff, we make sure that everything's easy and they can adequately feed them. Again. We don't worry much about the grain portion of the diet. We just make sure that they have forage and water or soaked forage and water when they're in transport.


Katy Starr (34:53):

Okay. And obviously travel can be a huge stressor for horses, which can lead to gastric ulcers, colic, how is this different from any of the domestic travel that we spoke about before? I'm assuming that, especially with these horses, as you said, it's a little bit more extreme with the preparation you're giving them, gastric medication and things like that to help kind of prevent those types of things from happening.


Dr. Stephen Duren (35:23):

Exactly. So those horses are, if ulcer medication is warranted, those horses certainly are given that. The other thing that has to be factored into is if those horses have a short turnaround, we've got to be careful what we give them in transit doesn’t violate the rules of racing when they race. So it's more complicated than simply saying, oh yeah, I gave him some tranquilizer when he flew. We have to know that if we give him tranquilizer, when he was in the airplane, that that may affect how quickly he can come back and race after that, or compete after that. So again, it's a big team that sends horses internationally and they all work together to make sure that the horse is safe, first and foremost, and then that we do everything and, and don't violate any rules of racing or competition to make sure he gets there safely.


Katy Starr (36:15):

Right. Wow. Timing is everything. And then where do they tend to fly out from the United States? Are there only a few particular places that horses can fly out of, or maybe most larger airports are accommodating for that? Or where do those locations tend to be?


Dr. Stephen Duren (36:32):

Yeah. So there are a number of hubs where, where horses can fly out of internationally. So East coast, west coast, Chicago, so they can all do that. The airports that do that, they have the ability to pick one of the crates with a horse up and take it off the airplane. That's the key piece of equipment that you have, cause those horses are, are in crates, so to speak. So, but there's lots of airports, both, domestically and internationally that can accept that.


Katy Starr (37:02):

Okay. And speaking of equipment, you mentioned that horses are transported in crates that get put onto the airplanes. Are there any additional, like pieces of special equipment that's needed to either protect the horse during travel or that specifically are used, I guess for international travel?


Dr. Stephen Duren (37:21):

Yeah. So those horses will typically, they'll have protective bandages on legs. Sometimes they'll have, you know, protective equipment on their head as well. So everything short of wrapping them in bubble wrap, you know, we certainly want that horse to arrive sound. But we use a lot of those same things for horses that are shipped domestically. You know, they'll have what they call shipping boots on to keep them from, you know, in the normal jostling of a trailer to keep them from, you know, catching their balance and accidentally stepping on another leg and injuring themselves. So they'll have those, they'll even have protection for their head as well. Sometimes they'll have protection for their eyes, so they're, you know, not riding down the road and a bug comes in the trailer and hit them in the eyes. So lots of different things used, and those are both domestic as well as international.


Katy Starr (38:10):

Right. Okay.


Dr. Stephen Duren (38:11):

But again, you need to practice that at home because if you're going to put those shipping don't boots on a horse...


Katy Starr (38:15):

Don’t just surprise them, like, hey, let's just throw these on you. So for really long travel periods and I'm thinking these long trips that are usually, you know, that go overseas, I know horses stand a lot of the time, but they do lay down. So do they have room? Do they have space in there for them to actually lie down if they want to? Or are they needing to stand during those trips?


Dr. Stephen Duren (38:42):

No, they're standing international flights. They do not have the room to lay down. They're all standing for those trips. Now domestically, when we ship mares and foals from Kentucky to New York or from Kentucky to Canada, we can actually have large semis that have room for a mare and foal where both a mare and foal can lay down. So you can have a box stall if you will, in a moving semi. So, you know, obviously costs a little more cause they have to reconfigure the transport, but you can absolutely have that.


Katy Starr (39:15):

Okay. Interesting. How do the horses manage with the pressure changes on flights with takeoff and landings?


Dr. Stephen Duren (39:23):

You know, I probably don't know the answer to that. I know we ship a lot of horses and they do well. You know, we can have some condensation in some of those aircraft, you know, where it's like raining when you go into different hemispheres and different humidities. So sometimes, you know, we're doing everything we can to control that environment for them, but they seem to tolerate flight quite well.


Katy Starr (39:47):

Okay. And I would love to know because you have traveled quite a bit in your career with being an equine nutritionist. What has been your most interesting experience with traveling with horses and this? I mean, it could be international, it could be domestic, or maybe you have a story for each.


Dr. Stephen Duren (40:06):

Yeah, probably the domestic one when I was much younger than I am now, I was working for a farm in central Kentucky while I was still doing my undergraduate degree at the University of Idaho. I was doing an internship and I worked for a thoroughbred horse farm and we transported horses from Lexington, Kentucky to Saratoga, New York. And we were on the vans with the horses the whole time. It wasn't like, you know, we were in transport cars or we could do that. So we had to make ourselves comfortable. And interestingly, what the van company gave us was hammocks. And we actually strung hammocks between the stalls for the horses. And I guess my interesting story is I was pleasantly reclining in my hammock enjoying the nice road, you know, swing of the hammock. And I didn't do a double knot in the hammock and one of the horses reached up and pulled the string and untied it. So I ended up all over the ground. So that's probably my favorite domestic one. International probably watching the horse get on an airplane and having the horse beat me to the destination.


Katy Starr (41:15):

Oh yeah.


Dr. Stephen Duren (41:16):

Where he didn't have to go through the customs. He didn't have to do all that sort of stuff. So, you know, I see him put on an airplane and he's in his stall at his new destination long before I can get there. So they travel quite well.


Katy Starr (41:30):

That's amazing. It's pretty interesting, what all goes into making sure that you can get horses from one side of the world to the other and just the amount of work it takes. But like you mentioned the importance of having a really great team put together to be able to do that, making sure you're crossing all your t’s, dotting all your i's, and no unfortunate surprises occurring for you.


Dr. Stephen Duren (41:56):

Absolutely. And if you think about it, when you have air travel, how fast a horse can get, you know, thousands of miles away, it's incredible, you know, they can have less stress in a three to four hour plane ride than a horse, you know, in a five or six hour van ride. So it's, it's pretty amazing.


Katy Starr (42:12):

Yeah. Well, and you think about it once they actually kind of get into that, especially if they're used to being stalled, it's probably a similar environment. Just, I don't know, do they have, they probably don't have windows or anything, so it's just artificial light that's in there?


Dr. Stephen Duren (42:26):

Yes, correct.


Katy Starr (42:27):

Yeah. Right.


Dr. Stephen Duren (42:27):

And there's other horses, so they're introducing themselves to other horses. They can't contact the other horse, but they can certainly see and


Katy Starr (42:36):

Whinny at each other


Dr. Stephen Duren (42:37):

Exactly. And, and communicate and do all those sorts of things. So they're not in a, you know, they're not by themselves.


Katy Starr (42:44):

Right, right. That's so interesting to me. So Dr. Duren, as we wrap this episode up, what are a few key takeaways that you would like to leave our listeners with today in terms of when they're traveling with their horses?


Dr. Stephen Duren (42:58):

I guess the, the biggest for me is to plan, you know, don't do anything, you know, haphazard actually think about what you're trying to accomplish and plan, you know, start 12 hours before a journey. Make sure that the horse is well hydrated, is in good shape before he ever gets on the transport. And then for longer trips, you know, if you can safely get them off and allow them to get their head down and eat and drink, it's going to decrease your chance of ulcers, respiratory issues, as well as colic issues.


Katy Starr (43:28):

Well, Dr. Duren thank you for being on today. We really appreciate your time. And for our listeners, if there is a topic that you would like to hear about, please reach out to us at We would love for you to leave a review. If you listen on Apple, leave us a review. It really helps others get to know what we talk about. If you enjoyed it, the things that you enjoy about it, it just really helps others get to know a little bit more about what our podcast discusses and how we can maybe help them with any of their issues or understanding of the way things work with horse nutrition and all things involving horses. So thanks again, Dr. Duren, and we will talk to you next time.


Dr. Stephen Duren (44:11):

Thanks for having me.


Katy Starr (44:14):

Thanks for listening to the Beyond the Barn podcast by Standlee Forage. We'd love for you to share our podcast with your favorite people and subscribe on Apple, Spotify, or your favorite listening platform. Until next time, keep your cinch tight and don't forget to turn off the water.


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