6 Steps for Relocating Your Horse
By Susan Tinder
Owner: Tolland Falls Ventures
Step 5: Transporting Your Horse.
Once you have made the decision on where you are moving your horse the next task is actually getting your horse there. Transporting your horse any significant distance will be very physically and mentally stressful for him. Minimizing the amount of time that your horse has to be on a trailer is one of the most important factors you should consider. Any trip over 10 hours is considered to be a long term trip and there are a number of factors to consider that will assure that your horse remains healthy for the duration.
If you plan to trailer your horse yourself to your new location and you are not an experienced hauler, you might find the book The Complete Guide to Buying, Maintaining, and Servicing a Horse Trailer by Neva Kittrell Scheve to be helpful. You might also want to check out The Hawkins Guide: Horse Trailering on the Road and The Hawkins Guide: Equine Emergencies on the Road. Both books are authored by Neva K. Scheve and James Hamilton, D.V.M.
If you are not transporting your horse yourself you will have the choice of selecting a commercial shipper or an independent shipper. Both have advantages and disadvantages.
A commercial shipper will typically be a company that transports horses as its primary business. A commercial shipper will be properly insured, have trained drivers and typically will employ larger rigs. Commercial shippers may offer several transport options such as a full stall, stall and a half or a full box stall. They may be limited, however, to frequent travel routes particularly to major horse shows or race tracks. They may only transport horse within specific territories such as the east coast or the west coast and they may only embark on a trip if they have a "full load" so your actual travel date(s) may not be flexible. Depending upon what a "full load" consists of and the destination of each horse on the trailer, your horse could be on the trailer literally for days going on a week. Once your horse is on the trailer, a commercial shipper usually will not unload him until he has arrived at his destination.
You will usually need to contract with a commercial shipper significantly in advance of your trip and once contracted your reservation will not be complete without a deposit (normally 50% of the total cost to ship). Depending upon the circumstances none, or only some, of your deposit will be refundable. The remainder of the fee will be due either at the time of pick-up or at the time of delivery and you should make sure you ask about what forms of payment are acceptable.
The cost is usually mileage based, but may be adjusted downward for a "full load". You will usually only pay for the miles that your horse is transported. Commercial shippers may or may not ship anything but your horse. If they do agree to transport additional items such as blankets, tack or tack trunks, you will need to let them know that you want to ship extra items when you contract for the trip. There may or may not be an additional charge for shipping such items, but if you have not contracted for them beforehand it is unlikely that the shipper will take these items at the last minute.
An independent shipper, on the other hand, is typically someone who owns his own truck and trailer and ships horses on an individual basis or they are people who will drive your truck and trailer while hauling your horse to its destination. They should be insured and they should know how to handle emergencies both involving the horse as well as the transport equipment. The advantages to using an independent shipper are that you can get your horse and your equipment to the final destination in the shortest amount of time. The driver is only delivering your horse to your destination without any side trips along the way. If they use your rig you will know exactly what the shipping conditions will be. If it makes sense to layover during the trip an independent shipper can do this and take the horse off the trailer for the night and reload in the morning.
If the independent shipper is using your equipment you will basically pay a fee for their labor/time (usually based upon some type of mileage calculation) and you will be responsible for any other direct costs that are involved to drive the rig and be responsible for your horse. You will be responsible for paying for the actual amount of fuel used rather than a set per mileage charge. You may be responsible for any return travel costs or costs incurred by the independent shipper to get back to the origination point. The combined amount of fees may be lower than the rate that the commercial shipping company would have charged. If the independent shipper is using his own vehicle and trailer, they typically have a per mileage charge but you may pay for a round trip rather than just for the miles your horse traveled. In this case, an independent shipper may be more expensive than going the commercial route.
You will typically hire the shipper from the location you are shipping from. Depending upon the shipping company they will either pick the horse up at your current location or you may be required to transport the horse to their facility for transport onto the final destination. You should be aware that whether you are using a commercial or independent shipper that you could incur additional costs if there are veterinary bills resulting from the need for treatment en-route, if you change the location of pick-up or delivery, for horses that are difficult to load or if the horse is not ready for pick-up when the driver arrives at your facility or if the access road at either the origination or destination point is difficult to negotiate and the driver was not forewarned when the contract was negotiated.
Shippers are required to carry $1,000 limited accidental mortality for each horse. This isn't very much and it will only cover mortality due to a collision, therefore it is highly recommended that the owner of the horse carry adequate insurance on the horse relative to its value. You can get full coverage insurance policies for 30 days which will cover the horse during transport and most equine insurance agents can easily help you with this. If you are transporting a horse that has been recently purchased, it is strongly recommended that the buyer and seller come to an understanding before the horse is shipped as to who will be responsible for insurance during the shipment and who is assuming the risk.
How to Find a Shipper
If you are with a trainer they should have a list of both commercial and independent shippers that they would recommend. Shippers advertise both locally and in national publications and www.polocenter.com has listings for both national and international shippers that include the name, phone number and website address if the shipper has one. Listings are sorted by state.
A better site for locating shippers is www.MoveMy Horse.com. This site allows you two ways to locate a shipper. From their "Free Quotes" tab you can enter the origination, destination and the dates you would like to ship your horse. This message is then broadcasted to the shippers that are associated with the website and their quotes are sent directly to you. Your second option for finding a shipper on this website is to go to the "Transporters" tab and select the state that you are interested in. You can then contact the shippers directly for a quote or information. The site has a short description about the shipping company, the area they service, their phone number and website or email address.
What to Ask and Expect When Shipping Your Horse
Whether you are using a commercial or an independent shipper you want to know exactly how long they anticipate that your horse will be on the trailer. Shipping delays can, and do occur, but all parties involved should be informed as to when the horse will be leaving and what the anticipated arrival date will be. The driver should have a cell phone with all of your contact information as well as the contact information for the contact person at the farm where they are picking the horse up as well as the contact information at the farm you are shipping your horse to. Drivers will typically keep all parties informed as to the expected pick-up and final arrival date and time.
You want to know that the trailer is big enough for your horse as well as whether the shipper has a truck large enough to safely pull the trailer. Ask if there are options for different sized stalls on their rig. A larger stall will allow the horse to spread its feet and achieve better balance. Ask if the horses are cross-tied. It is preferable if the horse is able to lower its head and stretch its neck to cough. Being able to drop their neck and cough is important for a horse as trailers are dusty from the hay and the shavings or straw used to bed them. The air quality is poor under the best of circumstance as it is contaminated by noxious gases from urine and manure.
You should ask the shipper, or shipping company, if they carry any medications with them and what they are, such as flunixin meglumine (banamine, in IV or paste form) or acepromazine (ace, can be injected either IV or IM). If they do carry certain drugs, ask how the driver is qualified to make a diagnosis and if the particular driver is comfortable using them. Can they safely administer an IV (intravenous) or IM (intramuscular) injection, especially if the horse is under significant stress? Are you comfortable having the driver give your horse an injection if they determine it is necessary? You may want to discuss this with your veterinarian prior to transporting your horse and if you are not comfortable with the driver medicating your horse, assuming they even carry such medications with them, make sure you make your objection known before shipping.
Be sure to ask how temperature is controlled in the trailer as trailers can heat up extremely fast, especially if there are a number of horses on the rig. Ask how often the horses are given hay (you will typically be asked to supply your horse with a bale of hay when the horse is picked up at the origination point) and water and how often the driver stops. You should also ask if there will be more than one driver. It is always preferable if there is a relief driver if the trip is going to be over several days.
Shipping Requirements - What Paperwork You Will Need
In order to transport a horse across state lines (and in some states more than 75 miles) you will need to make sure that the driver has a current health certificate (no older than 30 days as of the day of delivery) on your horse that includes not only health information on the horse but also states the origination point and the final destination for the horse being transported. You will need to make sure that the driver has a copy of your horse's negative Coggins Test that is dated within the last year with the exception of California which requires a Coggins Test to be dated with in the last six months. The driver will need the originals of these documents if the horse is traveling through Arizona, California or Florida. If transporting from CO, ID, MT, NV, NM, UT, WY and portions of OR, SD, or WA you will also need a valid brand inspection card.
Other Shipping Recommendations
It is strongly recommended that all of your horse's immunizations be current. Talk to your veterinarian to see if there are any vaccinations that you would not normally give your horse that are specifically recommended for the area you are moving to. Any vaccinations that are given should be administered no later than two weeks before transport to insure that if your horse has a negative reaction it is resolved before loading him on the trailer. Make sure that you advise the driver if your horse has any unusual characteristics that might affect the horse during transport such as blindness, history of colic, extreme age, claustrophobia or soundness problems.
Your horse should be well hydrated before shipment and it is recommended that you not feed grain one feeding before shipment or after delivery. Ask your veterinarian about recommendations for using shipping boots, bell boots, leg wraps, tail wraps, electrolytes, oil, etc. before shipping. Generally, leg wraps are not recommended. Also, keep in mind that if leg wraps or shipping boots come loose during transport the driver will not risk injury to himself or the horse to reapply them.
Finally, always make sure that you have the driver's cell phone number and that he has all of your contact information. The driver should have all of the contact information for the farm that the horse is being transported to. The driver should be able to contact someone at your horse's new home about an hour prior to delivery to make sure that someone is there to receive the horse. You should also make sure that the contact at the new farm has the name of the shipping company and the driver's cell phone number. The new farm needs to be aware of the tentative time of arrival in order to be available to make sure that your horse is safely unloaded and settled into his new stall or pasture upon arrival.
Susan can be reached by calling 303-688-8725
or email her at: Manager@TollandFalls.com