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Travelling with horses

From: Samantha

I am moving from Macon, Georgia to San Antonio, Texas in July. I plan on taking my horse with me. I have a two horse trailer and a truck to pull it with so that is no problem. I have never hauled a horse this far before. I understand it to be a two-day trip. What arrangements or precautions should I take care of to make my horse's trip easier for him? I have relatives in Mississippi where I was planning on stopping for the first night because they have pasture land. My horse is not stalled now so I'm worried that long hours in the trailer might have a detrimental affect on his legs. How often should I stop and let him walk around? Also, will he have a problem acclimatizing to Texas as far as weather, food, diseases, etc.? Should he have any special shots?

I am sorry that I have asked so many questions, but the truth is that I have not the first clue about traveling long distances with horses. Thank you in advance for any information you may have.


Hi Samantha! You are clever to start planning for the trip NOW. There are several things you will need to think about, starting with the horse himself. Before you take him anywhere, you'll have to be sure that you are in compliance with Texas laws AND with the laws of the states you will pass through on the way. Each state has equine health requirements that your horse must meet in order to enter the state. You will definitely need a current negative Coggins test, so allow time to get this before you leave -- the blood-testing is done at the state lab, NOT by your own veterinarian (although he must draw the blood), and then you will have to wait for your vet to get the results and send them on to you. So don't wait until the week before you leave! But don't get it too early, either. "Current" in some states means within the year -- in others, it means within the last six months. Play it safe and get your Coggins a month or two before you leave.

You will also most probably be expected to have a CVI, or Certificat of Veterinary Inspection. Your vet can issue these papers: they say, in effect, that your veterinarian has inspected your horse and found him to be free of disease, and that he has had all of the relevant innoculations. You'll want to get the CVI as close as possible to the date of the trip, but DON'T wait until the last minute before giving the horse his shots! Talk to your vet about timing -- a few months before the trip should be fine, if that fits your regular schedule for spring and fall shots.

Oil: talk to your vet about "oiling" the horse before the trip. Dehydration and stress can can induce colic, and a gallon or two of mineral oil and warm water BEFORE the trip can help avoid this problem.

Food: take it with you! Travel is stressful anyway, you don't want to add to the stress by introducing new hay and grain. And take enough to get him started eating at his new home. Take MORE than you think you will need; it won't be wasted, and if you had a trailer or truck problem and had to spend several days somewhere along the way, you'd be glad to have enough feed with you.

Water: If your horse is happy to drink any water, anywhere, you'll be fine. Otherwise, you may want to take water with you (use a large plastic trash can lined with a garbage-bag, so that you can tie off the top and avoid splashing). If the trip is too long to do that, you may want to begin flavoring your horse's water with something distinctive -- peppermint is usually very acceptable to horses. If his water at home smells like peppermint, you can add a few drops of the flavoring to the water he is offered along the way and when he first arrives at his destination, and he will be much more likely to drink it, thus avoiding dehydration, colic, etc.

Trailer: you will need to be sure that your trailer meets the legal requirements in your home state. Each state requires certain safety equipment, for instance. If you get pulled over at a weigh station, you'll feel much more secure if all of your horse's papers are in order AND if you are certain that your license, trailer plates, lights, brakes, hitch, chains, etc. are all in order.

The very best preparation you can do, IMO, is to get a copy of the Hawkins Guide to Horse Trailering on the Road and keep it in your glove box, along with a copy of the Hawkins Guide to Equine Emergencies on the Road. These will answer questions you didn't even know you had about trailers and hauling -- and will give you lists of equine veterinarians and stables along your route, together with telephone numbers.

The Hawkins Guides are reviewed in my web pages, and I also maintain a Trailer FAQ provided by the authors of the Guides!

The URL is

Look through those materials, get the Guides, and let me know if you have any additional questions!

- Jessica

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