Eight Things to Consider When Preparing to Ship Your Horse

By Nicole Lakin of BarnManager

Whether you ship your horse frequently or only once in a while, it’s always helpful to bear in mind the things that make shipping less stressful. As a horse owner and a barn manager, I have had to organize shipments for my own horse and others, and these are a few of the tips I recommend each time you ship your horse. 

1. Make packing lists.

The app BarnManager is equipped with digital packing and to-do lists, so you can create your list on the go and add to it as you think of things prior to your trip. If you are shipping with someone else, communicate about how much space there will be for your belongings. If you will be pressed for space, try to only bring the absolute essentials or arrange for some other way to transport the things that won’t fit. Also consider what you will need first at the final destination and how easy it is to access quickly when you arrive. 

2. Know your horse.

Be prepared to handle its behaviors while loading, unloading, and on the road, and make sure you or whoever is loading and unloading your horse is equipped to handle any rash behavior. The last thing you want at the beginning or end of a long trip is broken equipment, so this can be avoided by actively communicating and enlisting the best practices for loading your particular horse.

3. Know how your horse likes to ship.

This is important in order to maintain consistency for your horse, as shipping can be stressful on their bodies. Provide all the necessary supplements ahead of time and during the trip to ease any discomfort and try to make the shipping situation as comfortable as possible. Wrap your horse’s legs and use a padded halter if necessary. Communicate with the shipper if you are not shipping your horse yourself to properly explain what your horse needs for a pleasant shipping experience. Not all needs may be met in this case, but you can come as close as possible to your horse’s ideal scenario if you are overly communicative.

4. Make sure your horse has plenty of forage and water.

If driving yourself, this requires knowing the route ahead of time so you can assess which stops to make along the way. Not every parking lot is going to be horse trailer-friendly, so identify some realistic stops to give your horse fresh hay and water and take breaks yourself if you’re the one behind the wheel. 

Photo © JumpMedia

5. Check the weather.

It’s important to know what the temperature range will be on your horse’s shipping date. Pack the appropriate blankets if weather is cold, but also know that horses will generate a significant amount of body heat while shipping, so be sure to stop and remove excess layers as necessary. If the forecast is hot, consider clipping your horse prior to its trip.

6. Have all your horse’s paperwork ready.

BarnManager allows you to store digital copies of each horse’s Coggins, which you can have handy on your phone, forward to a driver, or use to print copies. You’ll never be without your horse’s Coggins thanks to BarnManager’s digitization of records. This also holds true for health certificates and vet records that may be needed when trailering. Each state can vary in paperwork requirements as well, so do your research to make sure all documents are up to date for any state your horse may be passing through.

7. Schedule a layover if necessary.

If your trip is significantly long, you may want to stop at a layover farm and get a good night’s rest before hitting the road again. Do your research ahead of time or connect with people you know in locations along the way so you know your horse (and you) will be somewhere safe.  

8. Have a plan for veterinary help.

You never know when a horse may have a medical emergency during a trip, so if you’re driving your horse yourself, identify a few spots along the way where you could make a detour to a veterinarian in case of an emergency. This will become more second-nature as you ship more and learn the vets in particular areas you drive through often.

Also remember that our horses feed off our own stress, so keep a calm demeanor about the shipping process to keep your horse as calm as possible while loading, unloading, and along the ride. Above all, don’t rush the shipping process; this can lead to added stress levels, forgetting certain to-do list items, and potential mistakes along the way. The more level-headed and present you can be, the better the experience will be every time for you and your horse.