Alayne’s Top Tips for Staying at a Horse Motel
by Alayne Blickle, Horses for Clean Water
Horse motels are places where you board your horse overnight while traveling. Some horse motels, like our Sweet Pepper Ranch in southwestern Idaho, also offer B&B options for humans, making it a comfortable, safe place for both horse and horse owner to stay. We have people stay at our place who are moving households, going to or from college, traveling to shows or other competitions, or just heading down the road with horses for a vacation.
As a proprietor of a horse motel I have eight suggestions for making the traveling-with-horses experience easier for all.
- Use your resources such as friends, word of mouth, and recommendations from vets or other professionals for routes to take and where to stay when traveling. If you ask around enough you’ll usually find someone who’s traveled your route and can suggest a good horse motel.
- Plan ahead. There are several good websites for horse motels and places to stay. Most fairgrounds offer decent horse facilities as well. Some even have overnight camping for people. Do your research ahead of time, call around, and ask questions. Then you will know what to expect and what options are out there. While I know plans can change and things happen at the last minute, I can’t tell you how many times we’ve gotten a phone call from someone an hour away with multiple horses looking for a place to stay—often when we are already full for the evening.
- Consider driving long days. Don’t make you or your horses crazy by overdriving, but also don’t drag things out. I see this as the single biggest mistake horse owners make, folks drive a short day of only 4 or 5 hours to “not tire the horses.” My take on this is that it creates more stress by dragging the travel out twice as long, taxing the horses and everyone else’s resources including time, money, and personal energy. When I drive solo I usually go eight to 10 hours. When there are two or more of us we do more like 11 or 12. It’s always best to drive longer days for fewer days than to double the drive with multiple short trips.
- Get an early start each day so you can arrive at your destination in the daylight—easier for you, your horses, and less of an imposition on your host. Most horse motels are private facilities and homes. We appreciate when our guests arrive before 10 pm as we have day jobs and other commitments. Late night arrivals impact us, our other guests, and the neighborhood. Plus, it’s less stress for your horse (and you) when you can see where you’re going and inspect the new digs in daylight. While you’re at it, use technology to keep your horse motel destination informed of your expected arrival time.
- Keep your energy positive! We often have guests arriving cranky, hungry, and anxious. I understand how stressful travel can be but raising voices at each other, your kids, or your animals only heightens everyone’s anxiety levels. Travel with healthy snacks for you—veggies, water, popcorn, cheese sticks and 20 minutes of exercise before heading down the road is also helpful for a positive mental attitude.
- Practice loading and unloading your horses far in advance of your travel date, especially if you or your horse aren’t frequent travelers. We see many horses and owners who are uncomfortable with the whole loading and unloading process which makes things potentially dangerous and definitely more stressful.
- Health certificate and Coggins test. Talk with your vet to find out what paperwork they recommend and how far in advance you need to get this. If you have concerns about diseases in the areas you are traveling to or through, your vet should be able to put you in contact with either the state veterinarian in your destination or other resource professionals that you can ask questions of.
- When choosing a horse motel look for one where your horses can move around or even roll such as in a pen. They should have free access to clean water and be allowed to eat with their head lowered so nasal passages drain. Good ventilation is a must. If you have multiple horses it’s nice if they can be near each other to see or even touch each other. Inspect walls to be sure they are free of nails or anything sharp. Make sure stall walls extend to the floor so that your horse won’t get its feet trapped underneath if he decides to roll. Once you and your horse are comfortably set in your overnight quarters, you can each move around, breath in and out, relax, drink lots of water, eat, and sleep—and get up ready to get up early and do it all over again the next morning.
Check out SweetPepperRanch.com if you have plans to travel—or if you are looking for a fun getaway with your horse such as our Cowgirl Retreats. Keep an eye on the HorsesforCleanWater.com for information on upcoming horses and land management education.