Seven Tips to Help Keep Your Horse Healthy When Traveling

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

Whether horses travel just down the road or across the country, they are exposed to new horses and surroundings that may increase their risk for infectious diseases, says Kevin Hankins, DVM, MBA, senior technical services veterinarian for Zoetis.

Vaccination and biosecurity can help keep your horse healthy.

Before loading, ensure your horse is current on annual vaccinations for core equine diseases, which include Eastern and Western equine encephalomyelitis, rabies, tetanus, and West Nile virus, as well as additional risk-based equine diseases. It is important your horse has proper time to process vaccines and mount a good immune response, so consider vaccinating at least 30 days prior to traveling. Work with the veterinarian on your team to help determine your horse’s vaccination program.

Biosecurity also is key when transporting your horse, and could be equally as important as vaccinations, says Hankins.

Seven tips to help keep your horse healthy while traveling:

  1. Discuss upcoming travel with your veterinarian to determine whether there are possible disease risks prevalent in areas to which you’re traveling, as well as any event health requirements.
  2. Bring your own equipment, including buckets, and do not retrieve water from a communal source. When filling buckets, keep the hose nozzle above the water level, and do not allow the hose or nozzle to touch the bucket.
  3. Before unloading, ensure your horse’s stall is clear of prior bedding, organic matter, and other residual materials. Spray down your horse’s stall with a disinfectant.
  4. Continue familiar feeding regimens to minimize stress and help avoid colic.
  5. Limit exposure to other horses, especially direct nose-to-nose contact. Strangles and equine herpesvirus can be passed on to your horse from passive carriers.
  6. Use caution in communal areas, like grazing areas, as bacterial infections and parasites can live outside of the host.
  7. Keep a daily log of your horse’s temperature to quickly identify illness. Continue biosecurity practices once your horse unloads from your trailer at home. The gold standard is to isolate him for at least two weeks to not risk introducing potential disease to the rest of your herd. Adequately disinfect your horse trailer off premise, as well as tack, buckets, and boots before storing, to help keep your horses protected.
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