Helping Your Horse Move to a New Barn

Courtesy of SmartPak

Let’s face it- moving is rarely fun! And just like for you, moving can be really stressful on your horse. For those of us that board, and even those that keep their horses at home, moving is likely to be a necessity at some point. The good news is that there are steps that you can take to help make your move as stress-free and smooth as possible. Here are my top tips to help keep you and your horse happy and healthy as he or she makes the move to a new barn.

Review Health Records
Make sure that your horse’s Coggins test, vaccinations, deworming, and hoof care are up to date so that you won’t have to do them right before you move. Many boarding stables and shipping companies will also require proof of these services, so it’s a good idea to keep the receipts handy. If your horse is going to be crossing state lines, you’ll also likely need to get a health certificate from your veterinarian.

Pack In Advance
There’s nothing quite as stressful as packing at the last moment, then realizing you’re missing your horse’s lead rope, or an important medication, or a piece of tack. Packing a few days or even a week before your move will allow plenty of time to go through your things and make sure everything is there. Any items that need to be left out until the last minute should be put on a checklist for the final day, to make sure they are not accidentally forgotten.

Bring Food & Water
Many horses become accustomed to the taste of the water at home and are reluctant to drink while away. Dehydration can have serious consequences such as colic, so it’s important to keep your horse hydrated and drinking sufficiently, especially during warm weather travel. To ensure that your horse drinks readily when he arrives at his new home, it’s a good idea to pack some water to take along. This will also allow you to mix his water for the first day or so until he gets acclimated to the new taste.

Bringing along the hay and grain your horse is accustomed to eating is one of the most important factors to ensuring a smooth transition. Did you know that changing the type of hay your horse eats increases his risk of colic by 10 times? Similarly changing grain type increases the risk of colic by 5 times, so changing both of these at the same time can be a recipe for disaster. Be sure to pack enough hay and grain to transition your horse slowly over the course of 7 to 10 days to a new hay and/or grain by mixing the two sources. A digestive supplement can also help your horse’s hindgut adapt to change and manage digestive stress.

Maintain Routine
Horses are creatures of habit, and quickly learn their daily routines. When your horse moves to a new barn, it’s likely that he or she will have to adapt to a new feeding, turnout, and/or exercise schedule. Sudden changes in exercise and activity have been proven to increase the risk of colic, so it’s important to make these changes as slowly as possible. If your horse will be receiving less turnout or exercise at the new place, consider taking him out for some extra hand walking, lunging, or hacking to help minimize the negative effects. If your horse will be receiving more turnout or exercise, that’s great news! But you’ll want to also make these changes gradually, especially if he or she will be on grass pasture.