Shipping Your Show Horse Q&A with Brett A. Berthold, DVM

John Borys photo

By Arielle Brodkey

This article was an honorable mention in the 2018 GMO Newsletter Award in general-interest article for GMOs with 175-499 members. It first appeared in the July 2018
NODA News newsletter, Northern Ohio Dressage Association.

Q: Which health tests or injections are required for horses traveling to competitions within Ohio?  

Dr. Berthold: First is a negative Coggins test*.  For most competitions, the Coggins test is valid for 12 months, then needs to be repeated. Secondly, some shows and events require proof of vaccinations. Influenza and Rhinopneumonitis vaccinations are required bi-annually by the guidelines of the USEF. I recommend that vaccinations be kept up to date for the health of the horse even if there is no official requirement due to the potential exposure to other horses possibly harboring viruses.

Q: What is required for horses traveling out of state?

Dr. Berthold: In addition to the above requirements, the horse needs to have a veterinary health certificate. For most shows and state regulations, the health certificate is valid for a 30-day period from when it was issued. Each state and/or show may have different requirements. Some state regulations require a current rabies vaccination, while another may require piroplasmosis testing. Some show grounds may require a health certificate within 72 hours. So, before going to a show, one should contact the show director for confirmation of their requirements and also talk to a veterinarian about possible state regulations. 

Q: What do you recommend that barn owners require for horses coming into their barn from elsewhere?  

Dr. Berthold: Horses coming into a new barn from elsewhere should at least have a negative Coggins test dated within the past 12 months and be up to date on the core vaccines. **

Q: What do you recommend horse owners take along in the trailer for their horses aside from tack and equipment?  

Dr. Berthold: The horse should have easy access to hay, and the driver should stop every few hours on long trips to offer water to the horse. Standard equipment should include a first aid kit with bandages, cotton, antiseptic, antibacterial cream, vet wrap, etc.

Q: Is there anything special that you like to do for horses going on long hauls, such as to and from Florida, Louisiana, Arkansas, or California?  

Dr. Berthold: Long distance hauls can be very problematic. I recommend breaking the trip up into segments with layovers occurring every 8-12 hours. Water should be offered frequently during the trip to help reduce stress and avoid a possible colic episode. For highly anxious horses, I recommend sedation if the owner is knowledgeable about the show’s drug regulations.   

When shipping a competing animal, the number one consideration should be to keep the horse comfortable and relaxed. An anxious horse will not perform well. A well bedded box stall fitted out with plenty of hay and water is usually the best situation for a horse being hauled a long distance. The stress of long distance travel can set a horse up for illness. For example, pleural pneumonia is the number one worry I have for a horse spending twelve hour or longer in a vehicle.  I have seen many cases of pleural pneumonia resulting from travel between Florida and Ohio. Unfortunately, this disease can cause mortality. Even if the horse survives, the recovery involves months of lay-off and high veterinary bills.

I like to treat horses leaving on long-haul trips with an NSAID, such as banamine or phenylbutazone, and antibiotics within one hour of loading. The typical antibiotics I use are penicillin and gentamicin. I feel this procedure mitigates the ability of bacteria to take advantage of an inherently stressful situation. It helps to get in front of a possible infection. This procedure has greatly minimized cases of pleural pneumonia in horses under my care. Horses should also be given the opportunity to stretch their heads down often during hauling. This allows the accumulation of environmental contaminates in the trachea and nasal passages to drain out the nose.  

 * A “Coggins” test is a blood test that detects antibodies to the disease Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA). The test also goes by the name “ELISA.”

**AAEP (American Association of Equine Practitioners) core vaccines for Ohio include Influenza, Rhinopneumonitis, Tetanus Toxoid, Eastern and Western Encephalomyelitis, West Nile Virus, and Rabies.

Who is Brett A. Berthold, DVM?   A native of Medina County Ohio, Dr. Berthold graduated from Ohio State University in 1995.   His professional areas of focus include lameness evaluation, respiratory health, and MRI.   In 2006, he and his wife, Julie, built the Cleveland Equine Clinic in Ravenna, Ohio which provides full service equine care.  Cleveland Equine Clinic (CEC) was formed from merging multiple practices from Northeast Ohio into a single clinic and ambulatory practice.  Visit to learn more about Dr Berthold and the Cleveland Equine Clinic.

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