Moving With Horses
Updated: Dec 30, 2019
Moving with horses? Don’t stress!
HAHAHAHAHAHA! Yeah, right. Now that we’ve established that… are you and your horse(s) making a big move across the country or overseas? I will be spending the winter in Florida with my own horse and I am currently making the final shipping arrangements so I understand just how concerned you are about your precious 1200 lb. baby. Here is a breakdown of some of the most important considerations when moving horses.
Decide on transport. Will you do your own hauling? Use a professional shipper? Or will you need to fly? Hauling on your own has some advantages. You can check on your horses frequently and be sure you are taking the shortest possible route. On the other hand, professional shippers often have trailers equipped with CCTV and air ride. Ultimately, it may be more comfortable for your horse to travel on a rig. You may have ruled out flying if you are shipping within the U.S., but keep in mind that ground shipping coast to coast will take a few days. In this case, flying will be much less stressful for your horse. So, if you do not find the ~$5,000.00 price tag to be prohibitive, then you should seriously consider buying your horse a plane ticket. Fun fact: it is actually possible to FedEx a horse.
Do your research. If you decide to use a professional shipper, use your super sleuth skills to check out their routes, equipment, policies, and prices. Now, be careful not to find yourself 10 pages deep in an online forum. We’ve all been there, but you have to remember that the people who are motivated to write a review either had a stellar experience or a terrible one. There will always be unhappy customers in the horse world, but don’t go seeking them out. I guarantee you will find them and when you finally come to in the early hours of the morning you will realize that somewhere along the line you Googled “travel induced equine epilepsy” just before you blacked out. That being said, not all shippers are created equal so make some phone calls and be sure to find one you trust.
Gather your health certificates and passports. In order for horses to cross state lines and borders, they will need up-to-date documents. Generally, a negative coggins and a health certificate signed by the vet in the last 30 days is enough to move a horse from state to state. A passport identifying the horse and documenting certain vaccinations will be required for horses traveling internationally. Talk to the vet you plan to use to find out what vaccinations are necessary for your horse’s destination. For instance, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to vaccinate against Potomac horse fever for horses that will be living near water, particularly in the Mid-Atlantic region.
*On the topic of health, an ulcer preventative, like Ulcergard, can ease the stress of travel. Talk to your vet about ulcer prevention and dosing.
Choose a type of stall. Whether your horse will be flying or ground shipping, professional shippers generally offer three options. The first is a single stall which is not dissimilar from a single stall on your trailer and the horses are generally three across in the rig or plane. The second option is a stall and a half, which is still a standing stall, but with extra room for the horse to take a wider stance and travel more comfortably. The final, and most expensive, option is a box stall where the divider is removed and the horse is loose and free to choose the most comfortable stance for travel. Mares with foals and horses that have never shipped before should only ship in box stalls. A benefit to the box stall is that the horses are not tied so they are able to lower their heads and clear their airways of the bedding and other debris floating around the trailer. If your horse has a history of shipping fever, then it would be safest to ship in a box stall.
Decide on wraps. If your horse is used to standing wraps or shipping boots, you may opt to wrap their legs for the trip. Bear in mind that many professional shippers will keep an eye on the wraps, but if they come undone or slip and the shipper deems them unsafe, they will be removed for the rest of the trip. Shippers generally avoid wrapping horses for liability reasons and because of this, many people choose to ship their horses without wraps when they use a professional shipper.
Consider your insurance. Accidents happen. I hate to say it and I can feel an ulcer coming on just thinking about it, but it’s true. Most shippers carry a basic level of insurance for each horse they ship and I’ve often seen it limited to a $2000.00 mortality policy. Before your horse sets foot on the trailer, it is definitely worth considering your insurance policy. For sales horses, many buyers will insure the horse the day the bill of sale is signed so the coverage will begin before the horse travels. Here you can find a description of each of the different types of policies.
Be prepared for quarantine. Many barns will have their own quarantine stalls for new arrivals, but if your horse will be traveling internationally, you can expect quarantine to be a bit more of a process. Stallions and mares tend to go through a longer quarantine period than geldings. Generally, the quarantine facility is near the airport and horses need only be there a few days, but sometimes mares and stallions will be transported to another facility for additional quarantine. If you are curious to know what one of these facilities looks like, check out New York’s brand new quarantine facility at JFK Airport.
Let your horse recover. As I mentioned previously, travel can be very stressful on a horse and allowing them at least a day or two to recuperate and adjust to their new surroundings will be in everyone’s best interest. Keep a close eye on your horse and watch out for signs of shipping fever and ulcers. Once they have recovered, it is time to enjoy your new home!