Relocating your horse to Arizona

Here are some tips for making your horse's move comfortable:

Deal with issues affecting your horse’s health and comfort prior to the trip.

This is Bamboo Edward Elson, Margo's mustang rescue baby.


Help your horse get in shape. If you will be transporting your horse a long distance to Tucson, practice for several weeks before leaving, even if a professional shipper will be doing the hauling. Load and unload frequently, even if you don’t actually take your horse for a trailer ride every time. Do take your horse for trailer rides as frequently a feasible. Remember, on a long haul your horse has to not only stand for the duration of the trip, he also has to balance himself against the motion of the trailer the whole time. This is hard work. Practice will “get him in shape.”

Check out his feet. Whether or not your horse wears shoes, make sure that he has had a recent trim and reset of his shoes before he leaves. Do the trim and reset 2-3 weeks before your planned move. I can’t imagine anything more painful than having to go on a long trip in ill-fitting shoes and never having the opportunity to take the weight off my aching feet. Make sure that the hooves are picked clean before the horse leaves in the trailer. Helpful hint: If you “trail ride” in your current location and plan to do that when you move to Tucson, you will probably need to keep your horses shod, even if they are accustomed to being barefoot now. Tucson and surrounding Southern Arizona are very sandy and rocky.

Review vaccinations. Make certain that  your horse is up to date on all of her vaccinations and de-worming. Will you be moving to a part of the country where horses are vaccinated for different illnesses than your horse is? Ask your veterinarian. Remember, many areas of the country vaccinate horses for Rabies while others do not. Tucson is one of those areas where we DO vax for rabies. Also, some areas vaccinate for Potomac Valley Fever while others do not. Pre-vaccinate for these diseases 3 to 4 weeks before leaving.

Avoid colic. Make sure that your horse has been recently de-wormed and (if you come from a part of the country where there is sand) give her a treatment of psyllium. Psyllium is a fiber material that comes from the pod of the carob plant and it is the active ingredient in products such as Metamucil®. The key here is to have your horse’s gut as clear and free from anything that could contribute to an episode of colic on the trip as you can. If you are moving to Tucson or greater Southern Arizona, your new veterinarian will likely suggest that you start your horse on a psyllium regimen as soon as he arrives.

Similarly, make sure that your horse’s teeth have been checked and floated if necessary. This is another issue that could unnecessarily contribute to digestive upset on the trip.

Arizona State Requirements

All horses six months of age and older require a negative test for Equine Infectious Anemia (Coggins test or CELISA) within a year prior to importation. For more information, call (602) 542-4293.

Arizona has a voluntary horse registration program. There is no penalty if you choose not to participate. Begin your registration process here.

Sherman Lee (1997-2007).
He was Chulita's big brother.

Well check on arrival

I also recommend that you establish contact with a veterinarian in the new location BEFORE you move your horses and that you have that veterinarian perform a “well check” on your horse when the trip is complete.

Feeding plan. Take as many bales of the hay or bags of pellets that your horse is accustomed to eating as  you possibly can. Horses’ digestive systems are very sensitive. I have always been told that when feeding horses you don’t feed the horse, you feed the bacteria in his digestive system. When changing feed, the horse’s intestinal bacteria have to gradually adjust to the difference. Even if you will be feeding the "same" kind of hay at the new location, that is alfalfa for alfalfa, bermuda for bermuda, etc., please remember that the “same” type of hay grown in a different location can have different enough characteristics to upset a horse’s system because they are grown in different soil and under different climate and altitude conditions.

When my sister’s two horses came from another state to spend a few years with me in Tucson, Arizona, she brought me six bales of hay each. I only fed them their accustomed hay for a whole week. My thinking was that they had been on a long trip and everything else was different for them: A new place, a different climate, different altitude, different people caring for them, different water, so the least I could do for them was to keep their feed the same while they adjusted to everything else. After the first week I began giving them a mixture of their hay plus our hay, first 75/25 for a few days, then 50/50, then 25/75, etc. By the time their accustomed hay was all gone, they had transitioned to our Tucson, Arizona hay and neither one of them ever “looked at me cross-eyed.”

DISCLAIMER: Although Margo Elson is not a veterinarian, she is a decades-long horse owner and Realtor® in Tucson, AZ. These suggestions are those a prudent horse owner in Arizona would make to someone relocating their animals. For specific veterinary issues, please consult your veterinarian.

Margo's Appaloosa mare Chulita.

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Margo Elson, Senior Broker Associate
Bancroft & Associates Realty
4884 E. Broadway
Tucson, AZ 85711
Call direct 520-850-0001
Tuscon Arizona Real Estate Company complies with all Fair Housing regulations
Complies with all Fair Housing regulations.