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Tips for Travelling by Ferry with a Horse Trailer

Traveling with horses in Canada may require that you occasionally take your animals onto a ferry for passage to and from horse events or trail rides.  If you've never taken a horse on a ferry, the whole prospect can be incredibly daunting, but it's not an impossible proposition.  The most important thing you can do is prepare well ahead of time so you know the ferry's specific rules for horse trailers, as well as any dangers you may face during your crossing.  Don't worry, though, we've compiled a short list of valuable tips for Canadian horses traveling by ferry.

  •  Choose the right horse.  Taking a horse on a ferry is a huge leap of faith for any horse owner.  Many ferries have a no tolerance policy for berserk horses and will shoot them if they begin acting up, so it can be nerve wracking for you both.  Horses that travel best on ferries tend to be dead broke to the trailer (they may have to stay inside for many hours or overnight), are calm travelers and tend to stay on their feed even on long trips.  If you can't trust your horse to load and behave well for everyone, don't take him on a ferry, period.
  •  Use an enclosed trailer.  The conditions on many ferry crossings can be highly unpredictable, with high winds and freezing water being just a few of the major hazards.  Although some ferries will have a shed or other windbreak you can use to protect your horse while in a stock trailer, if that's the only method of transportation you've got, you should consider looking at horse trailers for sale.  Having a fully enclosed trailer will better protect your horse from the elements and keep their environment more stable during the crossing.
  • Keep an eye on horse body temperature.  That being said, it can also get really hot inside that enclosed horse box during a long transport.  Make sure the vents are open and that your horses aren't blanketed.  They're likely to run a little warm from the anxiety level during the crossing, but when they start to sweat, you've got to get them cooled down.  Open windows, turn on fans and open doors if you must, but you can't unload on most ferries -- so if you can haul in an oversized stall, so much the better.
  •  Clean up your mess.  There's nothing the ferrymen hate more than sloppy livestock trailers.  Generally, horse haulers do a good job of keeping their mess their own, but there's always that one guy who doesn't know the protocol.  This is a much bigger concern if you're hauling in an open trailer -- in that case, lay down some protective sheeting to keep the ferry deck clean.  Horsemen with enclosed trailers shouldn't need to be told that it's bad form to muck out their stalls during passing.

 Trekking across Canada with a horse box doesn't have to be a huge challenge, provided you're ready for the varying conditions you may find.  Always plot your course ahead of time so you know if you must take a ferry or if you can instead drive a little further in order to avoid this stressful form of transportation.  Your horses will appreciate your efforts.