Preparing Your Horse for Winter Transport

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It’s that time of year again. The warm weather is quickly coming to an end and that means that many performance horses will be shipping to a warmer, more southern, locale for the winter.

Whether you are making the trip south with your horse, or they are traveling with a trainer, you should formulate a checklist as you wrap up the summer season. Travel documentation is a very important piece to the shipping puzzle.

All states require a current coggins and health certificate. Each state’s requirements for entry may vary, so you should consult with your veterinarian or the office of the state veterinarian in the state of your destination to ensure you are appropriately prepared.

Health certificates are valid when written by an accredited veterinarian within 30 days prior to entry. Coggins requirements vary by state. Don’t forget that if your horse is entering a racetrack, the health certificate is only valid and must have been written within 72 hours of entry.

A vaccination schedule is a very important part to your athlete’s health. Consult with your primary veterinarian to formulate what is best for your horse. Remember that horses shipping to warmer climates for the winter are exposed to mosquitoes year round, unlike in the northern areas of the country. Therefore, the vaccination schedule must accommodate for a possible increased exposure to mosquito-borne disease. Vaccinating for Eastern encephalitis, Western encephalitis, and West Nile virus is important to the health of your horse and should be performed by your veterinarian prior to vector season in the spring and again in the fall so that your horse can build proper immunity.

Racetracks in certain states, such as Louisiana, require a negative equine piroplasmosis test. The office of the state veterinarian in the state of your destination can provide this information to ensure your horse is properly prepared for entry to that racing facility.

Racetracks also require that horses be vaccinated against rhinopneumonitis within 90 days, and this must be documented on the health certificate. The overall health of the horse must be taken into consideration prior to shipping. To ensure peak performance from your athlete, you may want to consider consulting your veterinarian for a complete musculoskeletal examination. This will provide a baseline soundness exam moving into the upcoming show season, and allow for any adjustments needed to the training schedule. You should never take for granted the gastrointestinal system of your horse. You may want to consider treating with an ulcer medication.

Have a great winter and good luck with the show season!

Dr. Thornton rejoined the Hagyard Equine Medical Institute team after spending the last two years treating racing athletes at Churchill Downs, Keeneland Race Course and Palm Meadow Training Center, Boynton Beach, Florida, as well as competition horses in Wellington, Florida, and Lexington, Kentucky. Thornton was a treating veterinarian at the 2011 Breeders’ Cup World Championships and Quarantine. She is an FEI Treating Veterinarian and has received her Equine Chiropractic Certification.