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A Primer on Hauling South

Picture this. It’s January and the thermometer reads –32°C. Snow lies everywhere. My neighbour’s horses are covered with thick winter hair plus three layers of blankets and they’re still shivering. But my horse and I are warm.


Because we’re galloping down a path in Arizona, with enormous saguaro cactus towering nearby! But, I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy a warm equestrian holiday if I hadn’t known how to transport my horse across the Canadian/US border.

If you’ve been tempted to take an Arizona holiday, or compete in Texas, or purchase a horse from Kentucky, you too need to know the regulations for crossing in and out of the United States.

Keep in mind that rules vary whether your horse’s trip is temporary or permanent, and whether you’re travelling in or out of Canada.

Do your homework before going anywhere. One place to start is the official Canada Government site of

 Here are five things to consider before heading down the road:


1? Obtain your horse’s health papers

Each horse that crosses the border must have a current international health certificate (these must be timed carefully as they are valid for only 30 days) and a current Equine Infectious Anemia (Coggins) test, which is valid for six months. Horses shipped into Canada also require a Contagious Equine Metritis (CEM) statement. Ask your vet, shipper and/or border employee questions beforehand; will you need two sets of health papers if you’re hauling a mare and her foal? What will you require if you’re coming back from a show in Texas, a state where CEM is found?

2? Consider what other paperwork you’ll require

While working on this article I had a lengthy talk with an Alberta horse shipper, who emphasized the need for a thorough, well-written bill of sale. “Your bill of sale must match the details on your horse’s health papers,” the shipper said. “Don’t use the horse’s nickname on one, and registered name on the other. The bill of sale should have the horse’s name, breed, age and markings. The seller and buyer’s full names, addresses and phone numbers must also be included.”

The date of sale and purchase price must be clearly shown. “Be honest and support yourself with paperwork,” the shipper continued.  “If you’re shipping a well-bred stallion across the border, the border officials will know he’s worth more than $500. If you’re dishonest, you may sit for hours while they do a thorough computer check, looking for show records, breeding fees and other data.”

“You will have to pay GST on any horse you import,” the shipper said. “You’ll also be charged GST on vet bills, board and training. If that was included in the price of the horse, make certain the bill of sale says so.”

If your horse is crossing the border temporarily for training, breeding or competition, you won’t have to pay taxes on his value as long as you can prove that he will return to his home country. Proof can be breeding or training contracts, or show catalogues. When your horse returns, you will have to pay tax on the cost of his training and board.

Photocopy all your paperwork. “Once I was at a border crossing and they turned me back to the nearest town to photocopy triplicates of the health papers,” the shipper related. “Be prepared so this doesn’t happen to you.”

3? Train your horse to load, unload and travel safely

“It isn’t fair to throw an untrained horse to the hauler and say ‘Adios’”, the shipper said. “Teach the horse how to load and unload. He’s less likely to be injured, and will be much less stressed if he’s had some experience before making a lengthy ride.”

4? Pack your horse’s supplies

The risk of colic is lowered if your horse continues on his regular feed, so pack enough good quality hay to last the entire trip. Likewise, several big jugs of water from home will help keep him well hydrated. “And I recommend horses be taken off grain a few days before they travel,” the shipper said.

Whether you use blankets and shipping boots will depend upon the time of year you’re travelling, the number of horses in the trailer, and you or your shipper’s preferences.

5? Plan your route ahead of time

It is advisable to call ahead before crossing the border to confirm they have a veterinarian on staff, and what hours they are available.

Lastly, decide how long you’ll want to drive each day, and carefully plan your route. “I’ll know where I want to overnight ahead of time,” the shipper said. “To find a place for the horses to stay I’ll phone stables, vet clinics and fairgrounds in that city.”

Follow these suggestions and you too can enjoy some horsey time in the U.S. But bring your sunscreen, and watch out for the cacti!