Relocating a Horse

Whether you’re heading south for a winter show circuit or relocating permanently, preparation is key.

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Whether you’re heading south for a winter show circuit or relocating permanently, preparation is key.

As anyone who has been reduced to a zombielike state the night before a big trip can attest, packing is challenging. Add your horse into the equation, and it’s an even bigger ordeal. Whether packing for a few weeks away or for permanent relocation, preparation is key. Here’s where to start.

Connect the Dots Between Vets

Before you transport your horse from point A to point B, confirm he’s healthy. Have your veterinarian examine him about a month prior to departure to issue a negative Coggins test for equine infectious anemia, as well as a certificate of veterinary inspection confirming he’s healthy to travel. Required paperwork varies among states, but for protection and peace of mind, you will want to be sure your horse is up-to-date on the five core vaccinations as defined by the American Association for Equine Practitioners—tetanus, Eastern/Western equine encephalomyelitis (EEE/WEE), West Nile virus, and rabies.

Regional factors dictate other vaccines your veterinarian will recommend. At the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn Vet), Amy Johnson, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, assistant professor of large animal medicine and neurology, keeps close tabs on rabies vaccinations and botulism year-round, but she primarily worries about EEE and WNV during the warmer months (late spring to early fall). In Florida and other areas with year-round mosquito populations, horses are constantly at risk and should receive periodic booster shots. In the mid-Atlantic region and other areas of the country, Potomac horse fever can also be a concern. Vaccinations require time to take effect (horses might not mount a full immune response, conferring protection, for 30 days or longer), so it’s crucial to find a veterinarian at your destination well in advance of moving that can advise you on an appropriate vaccination schedule.

“Your best bet is to find someone who has horses in the area and can recommend someone they trust,” says John Ismay, DVM, owner of the Sturgis Veterinary Hospital, in Sturgis, S.D. “You can also find qualified vets through the American Association of Equine Practitioners (

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Written by:

Lindsay J. Warner is a freelance writer based in Burlington, Vt. She grew up riding hunters, worked as a wrangler in Montana, and spent two years as a professional polo groom. She rides between deadlines when she can find a horse.

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