It’s not something we really like to do but there are times when it is necessary to float your mare and her young foal. Whether it’s for breeding, moving farms or heading to the vet, with careful planning the trip can be a safe, successful and enjoyable experience.
Regardless of whether you are floating your mare and foal yourself or having a professional do it for you there are some things to make sure of before heading off.
- It is recommended to not float a foal under 3 weeks of age if it can be helped, unless obviously if it is for medical reasons that cannot be avoided. This helps make sure they are strong enough to handle the journey.
- Make sure both mare and foal are healthy, check temperatures and vital signs, ensure the mare is well hydrated prior to travel.
- Choose an appropriate time to travel, if it is in the summer mouths and it’s going to be a hot and humid day it might be best to travel at night when its cooler or early in the morning, so you reach your destination before it’s too hot. If you are floating your mare for breeding (walk-on service) and the cover time for your mare is at lunch or later in the afternoon and it’s going to be a hot day, maybe try and make arrangements to get there early and see if they have an available yard for your mare, it is a lot safer to have to wait a bit longer than float your foal in the hottest part of the day.
- Set your float up to accommodate your precious cargo well in advance. Open the vents and windows to allow good ventilation. If you have a two horse float remove the partition to allow plenty of room, place a board or something similar securely under the chest bar so the foal can’t gain access to the front of the float (I know it sounds terrible but there are stories of foals unfortunately falling out of the PA door on straight load floats). Angle floats are little easier to set up and again removing a divider to allow room is a great idea. As with the chest bar, if your float doesn’t have barn doors or something similar making sure the rear of the float is secured, is also a priority.
Once you are organized about when you are heading off or when your mare and foal is being picked up, there are a few other pointers that will help.
- It is ok to place float boots on your mare if you really need to but is not advisable to place boots or bandages on your foal. They can come undone and get tangled becoming an unnecessary hazard during travel, plus your foal not being used to them may find them agitating and he/she already has enough new experiences to worry about.
- Try not to be concerned about the thought of your mare standing or injuring your foal, mum’s have a very good awareness of where their baby is and place themselves as to not injure their foal.
- The mare can be tied up, long enough that she has room to balance herself and eat her hay if you have placed a net in with her, but short enough that the rope wont’ become entangled around your foal.
- Leave your foal loose so they can move around a little, this way they can continue their normal behaviour of nursing during the trip and allows them room to rest.
- If your mare and foal is travelling in a truck where the room can be a little smaller, when loading, place your foal so they are facing backwards to the mare, this way they can still nurse easily whilst travelling.
- Take regular breaks, try not to travel for longer than approximately 4 hours without stopping to rest your mare and foal.
- On arrival or when returning home, monitor both the mare and foal closely for any signs of distress or sickness for several days. Check vital signs regularly and if there are any changes call a vet immediately, this can be a stressful experience for your young foal whilst they are still developing their own immune system. Foals have been known to develop cases of travel sickness and need to be treated immediately to ensure a safe and speedy recovery. Foals can deteriorate quickly once becoming sick, so picking up any problems early and speedy treatment is very important.
Transporting your mare and foal doesn’t have to be a stressful experience, with proper planning and safety checks it can be very simple and easy. If you are nervous about doing it yourself there are many professional transport companies that would be more than happy to help you on your journey.