moving horses

Moving Horses

Horse’s traveling is very common, and for many can be frequent, such as going to competitions, horse shows and breeding are all routine reasons for journeying to distant destinations. Horses are often sold and travel to their new owners, and some travel with their owners to a new home.

Plan And Prepare

Required documentation - Each state has its own regulations for out of state horses entering or passing through. Contact the offices of state veterinarians for each state you will be entering to find out their requirements. This should be done at least 30 – 60 days prior to your move date.

If your horse will need any vaccinations or boosters, be sure to allow plenty of time, between 2 – 6 weeks.

  • Certificate of veterinary Inspection - A current certificate signed by a licensed veterinarian will be required to transport any horse across state lines. In some states, it is also necessary if you are moving more than 75 miles. This will ensure your horse is healthy. The certificate must not exceed 30 days from the date of delivery, or arrival of the horse’s final destination.

    Included on the certificate of veterinary inspection must be the state of origin, any states you plan on entering, and the final destination of the horse.
  • Coggins test - Your horse’s current negative Coggins test. This is to test for Equine Infectious Anemia, EIA, which is an untreatable blood virus known as swamp fever. The test must be dated within the last year. The state of California requires the Coggins test to be dated within the past six months. If traveling through Arizona, California or Florida the original document must be present.
  • Brand inspection card - A valid brand inspection card, (verification of ownership) is required if traveling from CO, ID, MT, NV, NM, UT, WY and portions of OR, SD.
  • Passport health certificate - Some states have between them a mutual agreement to allow travel in, to and through these states for a six-month period.

How to transport your horse

Whether you move your horse yourself or hire professionals, much of the preparations will be the same and knowing how to Travel Safely With Your Pet is vital.

Personal trailer: You will be hauling the horse to its new destination. If this will be a new experience for you, there are some good resource books to obtain information. Two common authors are: Neva Kittrell Scheve and Cherry Hill

Commercial shipper: Is a company that transports horses. They will be insured and have trained drivers and can offer transport options:

  • Full stall
  • Stall and a half
  • Full box stall

Some commercial shippers specialize in transporting horses to shows or to racetracks. Therefore, they will only travel via certain routes. Their flexibility may also be dependent on whether they have a full load, which will mean there is a possibility that your horse could be on a trailer for longer than needed. Commercial shippers tend to take the horse directly to the destination without unloading them.

If you will be using a commercial shipper, allow plenty of time to contract with a company. Research different shippers to find one that best suits the needs of you and your horse.

Independent shipper: Is someone who either owns their own truck and trailer to ship horses, or will drive your truck and trailer while hauling your horse. You will want to ensure they are insured and can handle any emergencies that may occur to either the horse, or any other situation that may present itself.

Using an independent shipper means less travel time and personalized attention for your horse.

Fees for using an independent shipper will depend on the use of equipment, whether they are using their own or yours.

If you use a commercial or independent shipper, any veterinary fees that may occur during transit will be billed to you. Before contracting a shipper, be sure to know any additional fees that could be billed once your horse is on the trailer.

Having insurance on your horse is highly recommended. Inquire with equine insurance companies about the different policies. If a horse has been purchased, one party must be responsible for the insurance during transit.

Finding A Shipper And What To Ask

Commercial and independent shippers will advertise in local and national publications. The Internet is also a good resource. Move My Horse is a site where shippers can be located.

When choosing your shipper, you will want to find out some information:

  • How long will the horse be on the trailer? You should be informed of starting date and predicted delivery date.
  • Is the trailer the right size for your horse? Will the horse be able to lower his head?
  • Do the trucks and trailers have routine safety inspections?
  • Are the trucks and trailers regularly cleaned and sanitized.
  • Ensure there is adequate ventilation.
  • Are the caretakers experienced in handling horses while in their care?
  • How often will the horse be given hay? And how often is water offered.
  • Depending on the length of the journey will there be more than 1 driver.
  • Will veterinary help be available if needed? Are the caretakers able to handle medical emergencies should they occur?
  • Is there a first aid kit available?
  • Obtain the drivers cell phone number. The driver should also have all your contact information as well as anyone else who is involved with the transportation of the horse.


Horses are frequent flyers. They come in second after humans. However, unlike humans, their duration of confinement should be kept to a minimum. When possible, direct flights are recommended and the fastest route should be factored into pre travel plans. Air quality is important for horses when flying, auxiliary ventilation systems should be used to maintain this quality.

For horses Moving Internationally, flying would be the clear option. Some horses traveling domestically will do better flying for 6 hours then to travel the road in a trailer for 5 days.

Shipping your horse by air will require the services of a company that specialize in equine air transportation. One of the first and leading companies in the industry is H.E. Tex Sutton who has been providing horse flights since 1969. Among the equine airlines, FedEx is also a known shipper of horses by air.

When planning your horse’s flight, you will need to follow regulations and provide documentation. Horse Flight provides information for both domestic and international requirements.

In Case Of An Emergency

It is always a good idea to have some medical supplies on hand. Speak with your veterinarian for any recommendations on what to include in a first aid kit. Some essentials to include are:

  • Sterile bandage material
  • Adhesive wrap and tape
  • Leg wraps
  • Scissors
  • Rectal thermometer
  • Antiseptic solution
  • Latex gloves
  • PVC tubing cut into lengths of 1.5 – 2 feet (for emergency splinting)

On The Road

The route taken should be carefully planned. Avoiding extreme heat, or cold weather.

  • Communication – Being able to communicate is vital when you’re on the road hauling your horses. Make sure your cell phone is charged and you have back up chargers for the car and electrical outlets.
  • Rest – Taking short breaks are necessary for your horse. When stopping, if possible, unload the horse. Open spaces for reloading are advised. Your horse will be thankful. Anytime you stop, check in to see how your horse is doing.
  • Water – Offer your horse water every 3-6 hours. Water should be offered more frequently in warmer conditions, high humidity or if your horse is sweating. They need to stay hydrated. Monitor their intake of water. In order to stay hydrated, a horse must drink between 5 – 15 gallons of water per day.
  • Feeding – While traveling long distance, it is important that your horse eats. It is imperative that the hay be as dust free as possible as this will reduce any contamination to the air. Soaking the hay in water before being loaded or fed in the net is recommended.
  • Head Posture – Horses need to be provided enough freedom to move their heads as is safe. Prolonged periods of not freely moving their heads may cause “shipping fever” a serious infection involving the lungs and pleural cavity. Hay nets should be placed as low as possible, make sure the horse’s feet will not get tangled in the nets.


If you will be traveling more than 12 hours, it is advised to stop and rest. The horse should be removed from the trailer and stabled for at least 8 hours. This rest is necessary for the horse and of course the driver and caretakers.

You will need to find a place that can accommodate horses. There are acres of public land that provide horse camping:

  • National Forest Service – Acres of public lands are open to horse camping and trail riding. You can contact to see locations.
  • National Park Service – Each Park has its own regulations, but many permit horse camping. View the National Park Service website for information
  • Bureau of Land Management – The BLM land is available for horse camping and trail riding.

If you prefer a motel, visit Horse Motel International( to find horse friendly motels for the traveling equestrian.

Arriving To The New Destination

A horse that has had a good journey will be happy and bright. They will be thankful to be let out of the trailer as soon as they arrive, and have a walkabout either by hand or in a small paddock. Depending on the length of the journey, and the purpose of relocating your horse, they should have adequate resting time and be monitored daily. Rectal temperature should be recorded morning and night, and the horse should be weighed at the same time daily for 3-7 days.

A recommended read by the University of California, Davis Center for Equine Health, School of Veterinary Medicine on Transporting Horses by Road and Air (PDF) was published in 2013

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