101 Guide on Transport Horses Long Distance

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Guest post: Horses are transported very frequently these days for horse shows, competitions, and breeding. Other than this, the horses are also often sold and moved to their new owners at a different location.

Transporting your horse long distances can become difficult if your horse becomes stressed or road-weary. If you are transporting the horses on trailers, it becomes very important to take the right precautions to make sure your horses stay comfortable and healthy during their extended rides.

Here are some useful tips from a veterinary expert to make sure you take the right steps while transporting your horse through long distances. 

Right vaccines and documentation to travel across states

While you travel across states, authorities demand travel documents of your horse to state that his health is good and free from contagious diseases.  You should always discuss your travel plans with your veterinarian to determine what all documentation would be required for a safe trip. 

Listed below are the most important travel documents you would need for your horse. 

Certification of veterinary inspection

A recent certificate signed by a licensed veterinarian is required for the horse to travel across states. In some states, this certification is required even if you are transporting the horse more than 75 miles. The veterinarian certificate must include the origin state, all the states that you would cross, and the final destination of the horse

Coggins test report

Coggins test is done to test the horse for  Equine Infectious Anemia, EIA. This is an untreatable blood virus known as swamp fever. The Coggins negative report is necessary for transporting the horse. The negative report of the Coggins test should be dated within the last year. However, California demands Coggins test report to be dated within the past six months. 

Brand inspection card

A valid brand inspection card or verification of ownership is required if you are transporting your horse from ID, CO, NV, MT, NM, UT, WY, and portions of OR, SD.

Passport health certificate

Some states also have a mutual agreement among them and thus allow travel into, and through these states for a six-month period.

Make sure that your horse is well-fed and watered during the transport

While transporting the horses across long distances, it is extremely important that they are well-fed and hydrated during the journey.  You should also use a separate hay bag for each horse during travel. In case, if your horse tends to eat fast, you might consider using a slow feeder type bag to minimize the risk of choking. Keep enough hay that would at least last for 1-2 weeks at their new location. 

Make sure you offer your horse water at each rest stop. Since it would be difficult to have a continuous supply of water available on the trailer, an oral dose of electrolytes would help your horse stay hydrated during the journey.

The horse might sometimes refuse to drink water that tastes or smells different. Hence what you can do is keep a tank of water from home along. Other ways to increase the intake of water include feeding alfalfa pellets, soupy grass hay pellets, or beet pulp mashes. 

Protect the horses from shipping fever

Shipping fever is basically a viral or bacterial respiratory infection. It starts from a strong cough that can last for weeks even after travel. It is quite common in horses that are immune suppressed or are highly stressed during long-distance trips.  

You can lower the risk of shipping fever in horses by using these tips:

  • Improve your horse’s immune system with Vitamin C or Echinacea
  • Make sure you do not transport your horse alone. Get him a buddy along
  • Make sure your horse has space to drop his head during the travel so that he can easily clear particulate matter from his respiratory tract
  • Keep the trailer well-ventilated and at an appropriate temperature thereby minimizing the stress 
  • Make sure your horse has not come in contact with any sick animal and is healthy before the travel

Keep a check on the horse’s vital signs

You can catch the signs of stress, colic, or any other illness early by closely monitoring the vital signs of the horse. Check his temperature, pulse, and respiratory rate at least twice daily or more frequently if your horse seems to be stressed. 

Looking at the horse’s gum color and capillary refill time (CRT), you can keep a check on their hydration level. Pale pink gums and CRT of fewer than 2 seconds are the signs of well-hydrated horses. Another way to check if the horse is hydrated or not is by pinching the skin on its neck or shoulder. It should bounce back readily on pinching. 

The most important thing to look for in the horse is the signs of colic. Some of the common symptoms of colic in horses are abdominal pain-pawing, trying to lie down in the trailer, not eating their feed, and looking depressed. 

Take frequent rest stops

It is very important to take rest stops every 2-3 hours on a long-distance journey. In these breaks, you can offer your horse water, monitor their vitals, and refill their hay. During the breaks, the horses can also rest and stretch their legs from their constant effort in balancing themselves. Traveling in a trailer for horses is like an exercise to them and therefore, they should be well-conditioned and in good physical health before the transport. Otherwise, it can cause soreness, and tiredness in your horse and even their muscles can tie-up. 

Protect your horse’s legs by properly applying shipping boots

If the shipping boot is applied correctly, they can safeguard the horse’s legs from trauma that happens during the transport. It also helps the legs of the horses from swelling up. These shipping boots should be changed every day to let the air out. If the boot is not wrapped correctly over the horse’s legs, then it can cause rubs or irritation. 

Check if the trailer is big enough for your horse

It will be comfortable if a large horse is crammed into a small trailer stall. Hence, make sure that the trailer is big enough so that the horse can fit comfortably in it for long journeys. Further, check for any sharp edges on the trailer as they can be dangerous. Make sure the trailer is in good working condition before the transport. Check for worn tires, working brakes, structural damage, and operating tail lights. Out of many configurations for horse trailers available, the best one is in which the horse can face the rear at an angle. This helps them in balancing effectively using their hind end. A variety of custom trailers are available in the market by some good manufacturers like Double D trailers that perfectly fit your horse and lifestyle.


Pack first-aid kit for the journey

You should always travel with a well-stocked first-aid kit for your horse during long-distance transport. The first-aid kit must contain a thermometer, stethoscope, headlamp, scissor, bandage, and supplies for wound treatment. Other than this, it must also include some important medications and supplements like bute, Banamine for colic, neo-poly bac eye ointment, electrolytes, triple antibiotic ointment for wounds, probiotics, and echinacea. 

Cushioning for reducing the leg stress

If you are using an enclosed trailer, then it would be a good idea to use some bedding for cushioning. It helps the horse to be more comfortable and also decreases the stress on their joints and feet during travel. On the other side, if the trailer is open, then using bedding might attract dust which when stirred up by the wind can cause respiratory and ocular problems. You can also use a fly mask on your horse’s face if traveling in an open trailer.

Practice the trailer tips

Before commencing the actual long-distance transport, you should practice short trips with your horse to make them comfortable. Keep your horse well fed and watered to make the trips stress-free. After all, if your horse still seems to be stressed out on the trailer, consider herbal calmer products to help take off the edge.


With all these tips, we are sure that you will have a good journey and will be happy and bright after reaching your destination. You should give the horses adequate resting time depending on the length of their journey. Even after reaching the destination, they should be monitored regularly for nearly 1 week. Rectal temperature should be recorded twice daily and the horse should be weighed at the same time daily for 3-7 days.

Article made possible by Kate. Kate is a content strategist at 10audioz.com. She has been working in social media and content marketing for five years. She specializes in the health, tech, innovation, and travel sectors. When she is not writing, you will find her teaching math, and trying new recipes and listening to audiobooks.

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