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Can a Horse Stay in a Trailer Overnight?

All horse owners at some point have to transport their horses, whether it is twenty miles or a few hundred miles, and your horse might have to sleep overnight in the trailer.  Is it safe to do so, and how long can your horse stay in the trailer at a time?

It is always a good idea to plan your trip with your horse in case you have to stop unexpectedly and your horse will have to stay in the trailer overnight; rest assured he will be just fine.  Most horses do just fine and can stay in a trailer for up to nine hours as long as they have enough food and water in the trailer to get them through the night.

Hopefully, with proper planning of your trip, your horse would not have to stay in his trailer overnight, but in case he has to follow these suggestions to make his stay as comfortable as possible.       

Why would a horse have to stay in a trailer overnight?

Leaving your horse overnight in a trailer should never be something that often happens unless it is an emergency.  Horses are not meant to stay in trailers for any other reason than transported in the trailer.

There are not many reasons why a horse would have to stay overnight in a trailer. Most horse owners will plan their trips a month in advance, preparing for any circumstance, making sure their horses arrive on time.

However, if you have no other choice due to unforeseen circumstances, it is ok for your horse to sleep in his trailer for one night. 

Suppose you had a breakdown while on your way to your destination your horse might have to stay in his trailer overnight.

When you arrived at an event, and they do not have enough stalls to accommodate all the horses at the event, this would be a reason your horse would have to overnight in his trailer.

How do you travel with your horse in a trailer?

When traveling with your horse, it is always essential to plan your trip in advance and take the proper precautions to make sure your horse travels happy and healthy while he is in the trailer.  Here are some tips to help you take the appropriate steps the next time you travel cross-country with your horse.

  • Make sure your documentation is in order, and your horse had his proper vaccines, and his paperwork to travel across state lines is done.
  • Map out your trip before you go, plan your rest stops, and decide where your overnight stops will occur.
  • Make sure your horse is well fed and watered during travel.
  • Make sure your horse is in good condition and healthy before you travel and your horse has not been in contact with any sick animals.
  • It is an excellent plan to monitor your horse’s vital signs at each rest stop and after travel.
  • Make sure your first aid kit is well-stocked before you leave on your trip.
  • Place rubber flooring on the trailer floor to reduce stress on your horse’s legs during travel.
  • Take rest stops along the way to give your horse some time to recover and offer him some water.
  • Always apply shipping boots to your horse’s legs for protection while he is being transported.
  • Make sure your trailer is roadworthy and clean.

How long can a horse stay in a trailer?

In general, horses should not be left in a trailer for longer than nine hours at a time. Most studies have shown that the longer your horse spends on the road, the higher the risk to your horse’s health. 

Trips shorter than three hours in duration are not likely to cause your horse any transport-related diseases.  However, when a trip reaches the 12-hour mark, risks to your horse’s health increase dramatically.

Even though you may be ok to drive a long distance comfortably before you need to rest, it’s important to remember that traveling for your horse is very tiring. 

It takes a lot of effort for a horse to keep his balance while he is in a trailer as you accelerate, decelerate, stop and turn. This is why it’s essential to give your horse some time to stand and rest when the trailer is not moving.

Every four hours of driving time, it is necessary to take a 30-minute to one-hour break.  It is not needed to unload your horse for him to relax.  It is better not to unload your horse at any rest stop until you have safely reached your final or layover destination.

How to keep your horse comfortable in the trailer overnight

Suppose that you cannot reach your planned destination on time due to a reason out of your control, and your horse has to stay in his trailer overnight.  It’s good to know that nothing will happen to your horse if he has to sleep in the trailer overnight, but you can at least make it as comfortable as you can for your horse.

  • Make sure your horse has enough hay to last him through the night.
  • Remove any droppings from the floor and soak up any urine with pine wood shavings.
  • Check to see if your horse’s leg bandages are secure.
  • Fill up your horse’s water bucket with fresh water. 
  • If your horse has a blanket on, check the clips and make sure it is secure.
  • Make sure there is enough ventilation in the trailer.

First thing in the morning, if you have to continue with your journey, check on your horse and offer him some hay and water before moving on.  If you reached your destination and it is safe to offload your horse at your destination, let him out as soon as possible.  Try to avoid keeping your horse in a trailer overnight unless it is unavoidable.

How much room does a horse need to be comfortable in a trailer overnight?

Something you should consider before you load your horse into your trailer, is your trailer the correct size for your horse?  There are many things to consider when it comes to the right size of your trailer, including height, width, length and stall configuration, and the size of your horse.

Depending on how high your horse stand will dictate the inside height of your trailer. Generally, a regular trailer would be at least six feet wide by seven feet high inside, and the stall will be nine feet long. 

This size trailer is suitable for horses up to 16 hands high, but any horse over that size will require more room.  The bigger horse trailers are seven feet, six inches inside with headroom, and wider.

Horses higher than 18 hands high will need at least seven-foot, 10 inches of inside height, and a draft horse will need at least eight feet inside height with the stall length at least 10 feet long.

The width of the trailer stall is essential. Horses need to be able to have enough room to balance themselves.  Horses should be able to stretch out to relieve themselves. When a horse urinates, you will notice that the horse needs to stretch out.  If the horse can’t stretch out in the trailer, they would sometimes hold in the urine until they can stretch out and urinate comfortably.  When your horse is holding his urine in, it can become very uncomfortable for your horse.

Ensure your horse is comfortable and your horse has enough room to stretch and lower or raise his head comfortably when he wants to.

How fast should you drive with a horse trailer?

When driving with your horse trailer, you should keep to speeds at 55 MPH on two-lane roads and drive no more than 65 MPH on any interstate highway.

How often should you stop when traveling with your horse in a trailer?

You should stop every four to six hours when traveling long distances with your horse. Your horse needs a 15-to-20-minute rest period when the trailer is stopped and parked, ideally in a shaded area.

During the rest period, offer your horse some water, replenish his hay, and do a general health and safety check. It’s a good idea to clean out any manure and urine inside the trailer to keep it clean and smelling fresh.


Horses are not meant to sleep in their horse trailers overnight unless there is no other option.  Sometimes, due to unforeseen circumstances, horse owners have to let their horses stay in a trailer overnight.  Your horse will be just fine to stay in the trailer for one night, but in general, your horse should not remain in the trailer for longer than nine hours. 

If your horse has to stay in his trailer overnight, make sure you do everything possible to make him as comfortable as you can.  Give your horse enough hay and water to keep him fed and watered during the night until you can let him out of the trailer in the morning.  Make sure you give your horse enough time to rest and recover after the trip.      

Anrie Diedericks

I've been around horses since I was 6 years old and started competing at the age of 9. Horses are my greatest passion and I am thrilled to be able to share my 23 (and counting) years of experience and knowledge with you.

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