I’ve always shipped my horse with hay — and usually with either shavings or straw on the trailer floor. However, recently I was reading a forum post where several people indicated they did not trailer with either hay or shavings. The main reason was that hay and shavings can blow around while the trailer is moving and, at least in most trailers, the horse is not able to stretch or lower his head to clear his respiratory tract.
Of course on the “pro” side of feeding hay is that it keeps your horse occupied and gives their stomachs a buffer if they are the nervous type. When I got Freedom he was terrible in the trailer — if the trailer stopped for even a minute he would weave so badly that the whole trailer shook. I remember the day I brought him home I stopped to get lunch and the trailer was parked outside a McDonald’s. It was shaking and swaying like crazy and I noticed people giving it a wide berth.
Once he started to eat hay I knew he was calming down. Now he’ll scarf down a whole bag of hay (I use a hay bag rather than a hay net) on the way to and from a hunt (about 40 minutes total). With him, I can imagine that not having hay might make him fret.
Floor coverings are a trickier issue. My big Trakehner, Kroni, once fell in the trailer giving me a heck of a scare (Trailering safety: a near miss). We were trailering back from the end of the season hunt and it was cold out. Best I can tell, he peed in the trailer and the shavings froze. He slipped, fell, went under the dividing bar and stood up on the other side. While I had shavings in the trailer, I didn’t have that many. I was very, very lucky that he didn’t get hurt! Now I generally use old hay/straw to absorb pee. I think it’s a lot less dusty, too.
One suggestion that I read was to ship your horse with a fly mask on to prevent debris from getting into their eyes. I think that’s an excellent idea which I think I’ll adopt.
So what does everyone else do? Hay or no hay? Hay bags or nets? Shavings or not? Let me know!