Safely Transporting Horses

horse-in-trailerBy Joanne Fehr, DVM, MS, DACVS, Pilchuck Veterinary Hospital

To safely transport your horse, a checklist can be very helpful as you get started. Depending on the distance you are planning to travel, the following items can be of different levels of importance.

Basic safety: We will start with basic safety for any distance of travel. The safest situation for your horse on the trailer is to make sure there is good ventilation and that he is safely secured. If you prefer to tie your horse in the trailer, this attachment needs to be with a safety release or a break-away tie. The simplest solution may be a piece of baling twine that you attach the lead rope to. It is also best that the halter you have on the horse’s head either be all leather or have a leather head strap that can break if the horse gets caught. In addition, be sure your truck, trailer and tires are in good repair before heading out.

Leg wrapping: As far as wrapping the legs or not, for a short trip with known traveling partners, no wrapping may be fine. However, if the trip is longer, or with unfamiliar horses side by side, then protection of the lower limbs is strongly recommended. (For longer trips, putting fleece on the halter will reduce rubbing from the halter as well.)

Brand inspection: A brand inspection is required if the horse is coming from any of the following states: Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, and parts of Oregon, South Dakota and Washington.

Coggins test/health certificate: A negative (good) Coggins test that is less than six months, in combination with a health certificate, is required to cross into most states. These health certificates are good for 30 days only. Certain states such as Arizona, California and Florida require the original documentation, while copies of the document are sufficient for horse transport to all other states. Check with the state of destination for entry requirements. If you are traveling out of country, then an international health certificate is required. 
Related note: Having the horse current on immunizations is recommended but not required by law. Any vaccinations should be done prior to the two weeks before horse transport, as some horses need time to recover from immunizations.

Hydration: During the summer months, it is important to keep your horse well-hydrated during travel. This may mean carrying your own water along, or adding flavor to local water to improve the horse’s intake. Adding Tang, apple juice or Gatorade diluted into drinking water for a few weeks prior to shipping will get your horse used to the flavor so he doesn’t turn his nose up at different water. There is also a product called Equitea that you can add to the water. Adding 2 tablespoons of salt to a bran mash twice a day can stimulate most horses to drink more water. 

Safe travels to you and your horse! If you have questions, contact your veterinarian or the agencies responsible for regulating the transport of animals.

Located in Snohomish, Pilchuck Veterinary Hospital offers comprehensive wellness and preventive equine care, including 24/7 emergency. Call 360.568.3111 for more information.

Article added 5.31.14