Tips for Horse Travel and Shipping
by Debora Johnson
Weather you are shipping a horse or traveling with your horse in a horse trailer you may have questions. There are a number of potential problems associated with traveling with a horse including shipping fever, thrush, colic, cuts, kicks, and abrasions, the refusal to eat food and drink water that are not familiar or not in a familiar environment and psychological scars. It is really important to try to minimize the stress that transport can cause your horse. There are a number of tips that might help you and your horse during this time to reduce problems.
Shipping Your Horse with A Professional Transport Company
- The first hurdle is how do you go about selection a transport company and have the piece of mind to know it is a safe and reliable one? Of course, tap into your network of horse people. Your farrier, your vet, the local tack shops, friends who have shipped horses, 4-H clubs, Pony Clubs, show barns, etc. Do your leg work until you have several companies that have been suggested.
- If it is to inexpensive to be true--don't go with that company. You must think about gas, insurance, the hauling rig maintenance, the route and time table for delivery, the driver and helper, etc.
- Make sure the transport company is insured.
- Check references on the transport company. Do a Google search for reviews.
- Only pay a deposit to secure a place for your horse--never pay in full before the horse is hauled! Horse transport companies are notorious for not showing up!
- Does your horse tie well? Many hauling rigs have only tie stalls. If your does not tie well then you may have to look for a box stall type rig.
- If you have a specific date for shipment and no wiggle room then you really have to get on it because pickups and drop offs are usually not negotiable. The haulers have routes that they drive to pick up along the way and drop off as they go. The route is not a direct line, door to door, with a larger transport.
- Comparison shop taking into consideration experience, horse care, the equipment being used to haul your horse, requirements for transport--shots, health check, etc., papers that are required, the time your horse will be in the rig, etc.
- Ramps on the rig are important when shipping. Ramps minimize injury to the horse.
- Make sure that the shipper will give you a telephone number that you can call to communicate while your horse is taking the journey. If they will not do that absolutely do not use the company!
- Health paperwork and copies, Negative Coggins within one year of travel, current health check from the vet (each state is different so check you state laws), current shot information, recent worming, brand information if appropriate, any special needs or vices that shippers should know. These needs are for your horse and the handlers, too. Have copies of the horse's papers. Do not send the originals. Send those later by certified mail.
- Use a break away halter and lead rope.
- Anything that is accompanying your horse to his/her destination should be labeled and stored in an easy to transport container. Discuss this with your shipper. Some allow extras, some do not.
- No rich food before shipping such as grain. Easy on alfalfa. Grass type hay is better before shipping: timothy, brome, orchard grass, bluegrass, bermuda grass, quack grass, etc.
- Hay the horse is use to eating should be sent along so that it can be given in part along with the hay the shipper provides (one or two bales should suffice). Ask the shipping company about this. While you are at it, inquire about water, as well. Many horses do not like to drink on a trailer and do not like to drink water they are not use to drinking.
- Electrolytes can be started before shipping and provided for the shipper to use for your horse. While researching I found a site that suggested blending Mountain Dew or Kool Aid in drinking water for a week prior to the transport for picky drinkers. I would check with my vet before doing this, however, I thought it should be mentioned.
- Blankets are not provided by shippers for health reasons. You might want to ask the shipper about this.
- Let wraps and boots have mixed reviews. Some people like them in transport, many do not. For longer transport boots and leg wraps do protect your horse, however, they also add heat and can cause discomfort and stress. Tail wraps fall into the same category. Discuss this with your shipping company. I always use them for short trips when we trailer to ride the trails. I did not use them when I had one of my horses professionally transported to Kentucky to be retired on a friend's farm.
- US Rider is a national provider of roadside emergency assistance for equestrians. If you are hauling yourself make sure to have this protection. You never know when you might have a breakdown!
- Make sure the transport is well vented.
- If hauling on your own make sure that your pulling vehicle and your trailer are in top condition. Always have extra tires for your pulling vehicle as well as your trailer.
- If hauling on your own a medical kit with banamine should always be with you. It comes in a paste or as an injectable. Have a equine first aid kit with you, as well, and a human first aid kit for your own needs, too.
- Also, it is wise to get the telephone numbers for large animal vets along your route in case of an emergency.
- Many bed and breakfasts have horse accommodations so that you are able to sleep and your horse is able to get out of the trailer and sleep, too. Make advance reservations before you start out and save a place. When hauling to Kentucky from Virginia and back, my husband and I always stay in a bed and breakfast in Shinston, West Virginia. It is a perfect distance between destinations for us to lay over.
- If hauling on your own make sure to have contact information readily available in case you become incapacitated.
- It is always wonderful if you have a back up friend who will come to your rescue in case of an emergency. Not all of us are that fortunate!
It is impossible to cover all your basis. It is the emergency or unexpected situation that you can only do your best to anticipate. The above information should be a good starting point for you when planning your journey.
For More Information:
Bed and Breakfast Online (Inns with Horse Accommodations)
Directions - MapQuest
Horse and Travel
Horse State Transport Laws (Commercial)
Mule and Horse Trail Guide
Nation-Wide Horse Transportation
Nation-Wide Towing for Horse Trailers/Pulling Vehicles
US Rider Equestrian Motor Plan Roadside Assistance