Post-Outbreak Horse Hauling Concerns

Q:My horse is boarded in Hockley, Texas, and will be moving this month to Albany, Ore. I don't own a horse trailer, so I'll be using a hauling company based out of Colorado. My main concern is the recent herpes outbreak; my horse will be moving out of an unaffected area and traveling through areas and to a state that has been affected. The transportation provider also will be coming from a state that has been affected. Not being able to control the environment my horse will be in, my main questions are:

  • Do I need to be concerned? If so, are there any precautions I can take?
  • Are there any questions to ask the hauling company?
  • Is there a vaccine I can give to help prevent the disease?
  • Should I have my horse shipped at a later time?

Michelle Dunks, Houston, Texas

A:In the wake of the recent equine herpesvirus-1 (EHV-1) outbreak, you bring up several good questions about transporting horses. First, it appears the EHV-1 outbreak has subsided and all the states that implemented travel restrictions or quarantines have lifted them. So there is no indication to delay shipping your horse at this time. Horse transportation providers generally require a current negative Coggins test and health certificate based on the state of destination, but most do not require specific vaccinations.

Traveling from East Texas to Western Oregon is a long haul, so some questions you may want to ask the carrier are: How often do they stop? How long do they stop? Are the horses taken off the trailer? When are the horses provided water? Although this is not an exhaustive list of questions, it is a good start. Also talk to acquaintances who have shipped horses long distances, and ask for referrals to help identify a reputable licensed and insured carrier. The United States Equestrian Federation has published a booklet titled "Guidelines for Horse Transportation by Road and Air" that might also be useful.

Secondly, regarding EHV-1, it is a highly contagious disease among horses. The virus is spread by aerosol transmission (coughing and sneezing) and direct contact with contaminated nasal secretions or, in the case of abortions, contact with fetal and placental fluids and tissues. The close quarters of commercial shipping trailers could allow exposure if an infected, shedding horse was on the trailer. Vaccinating your horse against EHV-1 will help prevent the respiratory disease but there is no currently available vaccine that's been shown effective in preventing the neurologic form. Based on the current American Association of Equine Practitioners vaccination guidelines, if your horse has not been vaccinated within the last six months, you should vaccinate him at least two weeks prior to travel for contagious diseases (including EHV-1 and equine influenza) and for the diseases that could be found in the new environment.

About the Author

Hoyt Cheramie, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS

Hoyt Cheramie, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, is a member of the Merial Veterinary Professional Services team. He has expertise in performance horse medicine and has teaching experience at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine. He has practiced in Kentucky, Louisiana, Georgia, and Illinois. He earned his doctor of veterinary medicine from Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine.

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