Ask Dr. Harman: Travel Stress

Question: “I’m getting ready to move my 3 horses (and mini) from Pennsylvania to California. Any suggestions on traveling long distances and if there is anything I could do to prepare them for a long haul?”
Answer: “Horses usually make a move like this better than we expect, however there are a number of things you can do the minimize the stress and help them adapt to the changes. One thing we most often forget to do is to tell them about the move coming up. Just explain it to them in your own words, its amazing how much they understand us. 
The two most important health aspects of long distance travel are to support the digestive tract and protect the immune system. If these are horses that are not used to traveling, being confined and eating mostly hay for a few days, it is very important to keep them hydrated. The addition of an electrolyte to their food for 24 hours before you leave is useful, since they will drink more water and store some of that in their gut. You can even make a simple electrolyte formula with equal parts of regular salt and Lite® Salt (a source of potassium). Or purchase a commercial one that does not have sugar in it. You may want them to get used to a flavored water, so they still drink as you change supplies along the way. Apple cider vinegar, juices, peppermint extract (just a few drops) and anything else you can think of that your horse likes.
Use probiotics to help the good gut bacteria adapt to the changes. I start adding these to the feed about 10 days before the trip, feed during, and continue for at least 10 days after arrival. If the environmental and feed supplies are totally different (the grasses and hays are usually very different, and the housing situations can be much more confining), then I keep the probiotics for a month or even permanently. I use probiotics from companies that I know pay attention to quality, use organisms that will survive being handled in barn situations and do not add chemical additives (ProBi-Advanced Biological Concepts and    PrePro – equilite– There are others that are useful.
To combat stress and protect the immune system, I use Rescue Remedy ( which you can get at many health food stores. This is an anti stress Bach Flower remedy. To use it, just put about 10 drops into the water bucket starting the day before and continuing until the horse is well settled into the new place.
I also use an adaptogenic herb formula. Adaptogens are wonderful herbs that help the body control and deal with stress and cortisol release. The formula is called APF ( You can use either formula, with the Pro version being a bit stronger and more protective for horses with known issues around shipping or those that are prone to ulcers. Start about 5 days before the trip and continue until they are well settled into their new home.
Good luck with your travels.”

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