A Look at how Horses Have Been Transported Throughout the Years

Can you imagine living in an era in which horse trailers did not exist?  It was not long ago when horses were used for transportation rather than for show and competition.  Let’s rewind the clock to years prior when horses played an extremely important and useful role in everyday living.  When one of these valuable animals had to be transported across a considerable amount of space, they were moved on foot.  This laborious process was quite straining compared to the modern day convenience provided by horse trailers.

The Early Days of Moving Horses

Prior to the days of horse trailers, people moved horses across vast distances on foot.  This process required a considerable amount of time and energy.  Those willing to make the walk across difficult terrain and through inclement weather ran the risk of exhausting the horse yet their effort paid considerable financial dividends.  Some horse traders traveled several thousand miles to buy and sell horses.

Shipping Horses Over Water

Horses have been transported across water way back in the days of Ancient Greece.  Records show horses were transported in boats as early as 1500 B.C.  These animals were eventually shipped in boats for war purposes during the Middle ages.  It is a shame that horses were subjected to horrible conditions on ships and eventually, oar-powered boats.  Horses were kept in slings aboard the deck or tethered down tight and boxed in tiny spaces within the hold.  It is no surprise some such horses transported in these diminutive spaces perished en route to their destination.

There were no loading ramps for horses in the early days of boating.  It was quite the chore to get these animals on and off ships. United States Army Veterinary Corps’ General William Carter has since detailed research that indicates how slings and other restraints for horses are unsuitable for these animals.

Equine Rickshaws and Modern Day Horse Trailers

Horse vanning debuted in the 18th century.  This approach to shipping horses across vast expanses of land was centered on horses transporting other horses as though they were a form of cargo.  This is certainly a slow and odd means of transporting horses yet it proved fairly effective.  Vanning first began way back in the late 18th century when a modified horse-drawn van was built to protect the feet of the beloved English racehorse Eclipse.  This is the unofficial beginning of the horse trailer.  It took until the early 19th century for vanning to reach the mainstream.

Transporting Horses by Train

The railway expansion in the 20th century made it possible to transport horses by train across considerable distances in a reasonable amount of time.  The only problem was horses hated being trapped inside dark, loud boxes for these railroad trips.  Add in the fact that the animals were tied in place with short tethers and riding the rails proved quite traumatic.  Nowadays, head bumpers, shipping blankets, leg wraps and additional protective gear are used to keep horses on trains safe and comfortable.

Richard Schibell has over 35 years of transporting his race horses and breeders. As you can imagine, he and Richard Schibell Racing have gone through numerous trailers and various forms of transport to move their horses throughout the country, as well as overseas. Learn more about Richard D. Schibell and his racing career over the past 3 decades.