Imagine this: Your employer has just informed you you're being transferred from Baltimore to San Francisco. The new job opportunity sounds exciting and living in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge seems like a dream come true, but what about your horse? How are you going to get him from one coast to the other?
When faced with a great distance, your pickup truck and two-horse bumper-pull trailer may not cut it. It may be great for going to local horse shows, but this sort of shipping is different. It may be time to call in a commercial hauler, a company that specializes in hauling horses.
Peter Salome, general manager of Perry Horse Transport, a company that ships horses all over the United States and Canada, puts it like this: "A lot of people think the cost of shipping a horse with a transport company sounds expensive at first. But they don't factor in the time lost if they try to do the shipping themselves, the fuel costs, the wear and tear on their vehicles, or what they'd do if they had a breakdown. If you're fully capable of handling every contingency by yourself, then great. But if you aren't, commercial transport is a much more sensible choice."
Taming Travel Stress
In addition to your own stress levels, Salome suggests you consider the trauma to your horse. "Bouncing across the country in a two-horse trailer is very stressful," he says.
Most large commercial transport companies, by contrast, have smooth 'air-ride' vans with higher ceilings and a choice of stalls. Depending on your horse's needs and your budget, you may choose a regular-sized standing stall, a stall-and-a-half that offers a little more room, or a deluxe box stall in which he can move around and lie down. Some companies even offer jumbo-sized box stalls suitable for mares and foals being shipped together.
Another consideration: The sheer size of a commercial transport makes the interior space more inviting. For a horse that refuses to load in a two-horse trailer, or one who has little trailering experience, this may make all the difference.
Check Out the Company
It can be nerve-racking to send your horse off across the country with strangers, so you should investigate the commercial transport company carefully before you commit. Word of mouth may be the best way to find a reputable outfit that will take good care of your horse. Ask your equestrian pals, riding coach, stable manager or veterinarian for recommendations. It's worth checking out a few companies. The best will be investigating you, too. If you're asked a number of questions about the specific needs of your horse before they take the booking, be impressed – this is a company that cares about shipping your horse comfortably and safely. Here are a few key questions to ask:
Not An Exact Science
Salome emphasizes that shipping horses is not an exact science. "We're dealing with weather, border crossings, paperwork, detours … and all the other aberrations of travel; in addition to the animals themselves. A horse that won't load can disrupt your schedule, so arrival time may be later.
Having your horse arrive at his new home safe and sound is the best reward, of course. So start looking into those companies that can literally take a load off your mind.