Can a Horse Sleep in a Trailer? [Things You Need to Consider]

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Can a horse sleep in a trailer?

Great question and one I’ve asked myself!

When I was thinking about this I decided to do some research and speak to several experts, horse owners, and even my equine vet.

Here, I’m going to share with you everything I learned.

So, let’s get started!

Can a Horse Stay in a Trailer Overnight?

A horse entering a horse trailer

In many circumstances, yes, a horse can stay in a trailer overnight. However, it is not ideal and only should be done if you have no other option such as a breakdown, flat tire, or another emergency that requires you to stop.

In short, it is best to do this only in an emergency. The only way to keep your horse comfortable in this situation is if you can take out dividers to create a temporary stall.

Most trailers whether they are a horse slant load or straight load have removable dividers.

Never leave your horse standing tied in a trailer overnight. This is bad for their health as they can’t put their head down. It also prevents them from lying down to rest.

If you have to use your trailer for an overnight stay, then make sure you are prepared for your entire trip. One thing is for sure, you will want an enclosed horse trailerfans for horse trailers. Bringing spare tires is also a good idea!

Also, don’t set out if your horse’s health condition isn’t optimal and you bring the correct health certificate for crossing state or country borders.

What do you need to have prepared in advance to ensure your horse’s comfort? Let’s take a closer look.

CHECK: Best Gooseneck Trailer Brands

Make Sure Your Horse Is Comfortable Overnight In A Trailer

There are a few things you can do if you are faced with the question of ‘can a horse stay in a trailer overnight?’ to ensure your friend’s comfort. The priority is to keep your horse safe.

Make sure to add more shavings to the floor if you only have put down a dusting. Skip out any droops and wet spots before adding new shavings, so it is as clean as possible.

You also need to provide plenty of hay and water to ensure you keep a healthy horse. In short, you want to make the inside of the trailer as much like a stall as possible.

If possible give your horse water from home as they are more likely to drink this. This brings up the important point, always pack some water!

You also need to ensure your horse has enough air circulation but all doors and windows are secure so your horse can’t escape. Poor ventilation can lead to a sick horse.

Not all trailers will allow you to create this space and if you have more than one horse then it might be impossible. 

horse getting ready to ride one of the types of horse trailers

Though if you have a large capacity trailer and two horses, it might be possible to strategically move the dividers and create two stalls and extra space.

Be careful though of dividers that have gaps under them. Your horse can easily get stuck if it lies down.

If you are using shipping boots or bandages, it is a good idea to remove them for the night. They can slip during your journey and leaving them on too long is not good for your horse’s legs.

It is best to remove them, put them in a storage space, and reapply them when you hit the road again in the morning. 

If it is going to be cold, you might need to put a blanket on your horse as it will not generate the same heat they do when trying to balance as you move.

Also, one thing to consider is not to unhitch your horse box. Doing this makes it less stable and more likely to shift with horse movement if they are inside.

The best thing to do is good planning before your journey. Make sure you are prepared for all circumstances. For long trips book overnight stops in advance. There are many barns that provide this service.

You don’t need to use the type of horse bedding you see in this video, but it gives you an idea of much you should have if your horse is staying overnight in the trailer.

Of course, you’ll want to take out the poles you see in this video.

How Much Room Does a Horse Need To Spend The Night In a Trailer?

The size of your horse and the space your trailer offers are important to consider. This is especially relevant if you know that you will have to keep your horse in the trailer overnight.

Ask yourself can a horse sleep in a trailer and how much room does mine have? Of course, a bigger horse will need more room.

Make sure that your horse has several inches of headroom so it can comfortably hold its head where it wants. You also need to ensure the trailer is long enough so that your horse can stretch out and urinate.

Most trailers are not as wide as a standard barn stall. A really big horse will probably find this uncomfortable if you are using a 2 horse trailer. If you can give your horse all the space in a larger gooseneck trailer, he will probably manage for one night.

How Long Can a Horse Be in a Trailer?

two horses inside a trailer

As for total hauling time, opinions vary. The longest time I’ve seen experts recommend is 18 hours between long rest breaks, though it wouldn’t be my preference. [2]

When on the road you need to plan for regular rest stops during your journey. Stop every couple of hours to provide your horse with water, top up haynets and give your horse a rest.

How Often Should You Stop Your Trailer Journey?

Some vets recommend stopping for an hour every 6 to 8 hours.[1] Though, I personally wouldn’t go over 4 hours without giving my horse a 30-minute rest break. And myself!

It is more common for professional horse trucking companies to stop every 3 to 4 hours so the horses and drivers can rest. [2] Also, keep in mind, that it is also the law in many places for truck drivers to stop every 4 hours like it is where I live.

It is a good idea to allow your horse to put its head down during these breaks as it helps drain its airways and reduces the risk of shipping fever.

Never keep a horse in a trailer for more than 18 hours without a long break where they are unloaded and spend several hours in a stable. Personally, I think 18 hours is too long, but that is the maximum recommendation. [2]

When you take your short breaks it is safest not to unload your horse. There is nothing scarier to think about than your horse getting loose at a highway rest stop!

Only unload if you are in a safe place, such as the barn where your horse will stay the night on a multi-day journey.

Before setting out on any journey make sure your trailer has good ventilation. Check out our guide to fans for horse trailers for a good way to keep your friend comfortable.

 FAQs

Should I give my horse hay in the trailer?

A horse coming out of a horse trailer

Yes, you should always provide your horse with hay in the trailer. It keeps them more relaxed, helps reduce ulcer risk, and keeps them occupied.
During long breaks, if possible untie your horse and place some hay on the ground so their airways drain.

Should you put bedding in a horse trailer?

You should always put bedding in a horse trailer. The ensures the floor doesn’t get slippery from droppings and urine. The lowers the risk of your horse slipping and injuring itself during the drive.

How long can a horse travel in a day?

A horse trailer carrying horses

The maximum some experts say is 18 hours. However, I prefer to stick to 8 hours if possible and never push it over 10 hours for the horse’s well-being.

Conclusion

I hope that helps answer the question ‘can a horse sleep in a trailer?’ I wasn’t sure myself until I started looking into it.

As you can see it is not the best idea, and only should be done if you have no other options. With good prep, you can head off easy with the knowledge that you can handle anything.

Happy trails!

STALLION INSIDE A HORSE TRAILER

What do you think? Have you ever had to keep your horse in the trailer overnight? Let me know in the comments.

Resources

  • 1. Trailering 101 [Internet]. www.totalequinevets.com. [cited 2022 Sep 6]. Available from: https://www.totalequinevets.com/client-center/resources/TEVApedia/equine-trailering-101
  • 2. Considerations When Hauling a Horse – Extension Horses [Internet]. horses.extension.org. [cited 2022 Sep 6]. Available from: https://horses.extension.org/considerations-when-hauling-a-horse/

Siun L
Siun L

Siun is an all-around animal lover, with a passion for horses. She grew up in the United States, competing in the hunters, equitation, and jumpers. Now living in Ireland, she competes with her own showjumping horses. She is experienced in the care and training of horses, as well as teaching riding lessons. She loves to combine her love for horses with her work. When not working, Siun will be found at the stables, rain or shine.
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