Why Hauling Is Hard on Horses’ Gut Health

Truckin' ain't easy.
Truck and trailer with horse at rodeo

Most horse owners know that horse hauling can be tough on the animal in a variety of manners, but what is it about traveling inside a horse trailer that can specifically impact horses’ gut health, and why does this matter to performance and barrel racing horses?

There’s a lot to unpack when it comes to what happens on the trailer and at events while hauling horses.


  • Increased Stress Hormones: The stress of travel elevates cortisol levels, which can lead to decreased blood flow to the stomach lining and an increase in stomach acid production, raising the risk of gastric ulcers.
  • Changes in Routine: Disruption of a horse’s regular routine and environment can cause stress, contributing to gastric issues.


  • Limited Water Intake: Horses may drink less water during travel due to unfamiliar water sources or stress, leading to dehydration, which can concentrate stomach acids and irritate the stomach lining.
  • Electrolyte Imbalance: Dehydration can also cause an imbalance in electrolytes, affecting overall digestive health.

Reduced Forage Intake

  • Limited Access to Forage: Horses may have reduced access to hay or grass during travel, leading to longer periods without food. Continuous forage intake is essential for neutralizing stomach acid, and lack of it can lead to increased acid levels and ulcers.
  • Interrupted Feeding Schedule: The irregular feeding schedule can cause prolonged periods of an empty stomach, allowing gastric acid to accumulate and damage the stomach lining.

Physical Confinement

  • Limited Movement: Prolonged confinement in a trailer restricts a horse’s ability to move around, which can slow down gut motility and increase the risk of colic and other digestive issues.
  • Standing Posture: The standing posture required during transport can increase intra-abdominal pressure, potentially contributing to gastric discomfort and ulcers.

Exposure to New Environments

  • New Bacteria and Pathogens: Exposure to new environments and other horses increases the risk of encountering unfamiliar bacteria and pathogens, which can disrupt gut flora and lead to digestive issues.
  • Change in Feed and Water: Variations in feed and water quality at different locations can disrupt the digestive system and contribute to gastric distress.

Changes in Feeding and Drinking Habits

  • Reluctance to Eat or Drink: Some horses may be reluctant to eat or drink during transport, exacerbating issues related to dehydration and reduced forage intake.
  • Changes in Feed Type: If the feed provided during travel differs from their usual diet, it can cause gastrointestinal upset and stress.

Vibration and Motion

  • Constant Movement: The vibrations and motions of a moving trailer can be unsettling and stressful for horses, potentially leading to increased gastric acid production.
  • Balance and Stability: The effort required to maintain balance in a moving vehicle can cause physical and mental stress, contributing to gastric issues.

These factors combined can create a challenging environment for maintaining gastric health in horses during long-distance travel. It’s essential to manage these risks by ensuring regular access to forage and water, minimizing stress, and providing breaks during long journeys. Additionally, using gastric health supplements and consulting with a veterinarian before travel can help mitigate these potential issues.

How SmartPak can help

SmartPak’s premeasured feeding system can be shipped anywhere, and orders can be edited to meet athletes anywhere in the country and altered to support horses’ traveling needs during long stints on the go, such as the summer ProRodeo run. This can ensure each horse is getting the proper nutrition and amount of nutrition they need to maintain their performance.

Here are a couple of the top supplements and their main ingredients SmartPak offers that are specifically designed to support gastric health in horses.

  1. SmartGut Ultra Pellets
    • Main Ingredients:
      • L-Glutamine: Supports the health and integrity of the stomach lining.
      • Aloe Vera: Soothes and supports the digestive tract.
      • Marine-Derived Calcium: Neutralizes stomach acid.
      • Hindgut Support Blend: Includes yeast and prebiotics for overall digestive health.
  2. SmartDigest Ultra Pellets
    • Main Ingredients:
      • Prebiotics (Mannanoligosaccharides and Fructooligosaccharides): Support the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
      • Probiotics (Lactobacillus and Enterococcus): Promote a healthy balance of gut flora.
      • Digestive Enzymes: Aid in the breakdown of fiber, starches, and fats.

Find out about more products from Smartpak that can support gastric health.