Helping Your Horse Move to a New Barn

Updated December 8, 2022
Two horses peeking their heads out of their stall windows.

Let’s face it, moving is rarely fun! And just like for you, moving can be stressful on your horse. For those of us who board (and even those that keep their horses at home), moving is likely going to be a necessity at some point. The good news is that there are steps you can take to help make moving your horse as stress-free and smooth as possible.

Here are our top tips to help keep you and your horse happy and healthy as he or she makes the move to a new barn.

Video: How to Make Moving Barns Less Stressful on Your Horse

Review Your Horse’s Health Records

Make sure that your horse’s Coggins, 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.

Plan Veterinary Care Well in Advance

Try not to schedule your veterinarian to do any kind of wellness care for about two weeks before the move. Vaccinations, deworming, chiropractic adjustments, and simply having an examination can be stressful for your horse. You don’t want to shock his system with too many new things at once, instead try to spread out his vet care a couple of weeks beforehand.

Pack Ahead of Time

There’s nothing quite as stressful as packing at the last moment, then realizing you’re missing your horse’s lead rope, 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

A horse drinking water from a bucket in the stall.

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. It’s essential 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. If your horse is reluctant to drink, you can try giving him an electrolyte like SmartLytes Paste to encourage normal drinking.

Bringing along a few bales of hay and the grain your horse is accustomed to eating is one of the most important factors to ensure 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 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 new hay and/or grain by mixing the two sources.

If your current barn manager doesn’t let you take any hay or grain for whatever reason, find out who supplies the hay/feed. Usually, feed stores and local farmers are more than happy to help.

Supplements That May Lend Support Before, During, and After Travel

SmartPak supplements being added to a horse's feed tub.

Since the stomach seems to be where many horses gather stress, you'll want to protect your horse’s digestive health at all costs. While keeping your horse’s nutrition the same throughout the move is crucial, you may also want to talk to your veterinarian about adding a gastric or hindgut supplement for support throughout this transition period.

A daily digestive supplement can help your horse’s hindgut adapt to change and manage digestive stress. [JB3] Look for a supplement that includes probiotics, prebiotics, enzymes, and yeast, such as SmartDigest Ultra Pellets. Plus, if you order SmartDigest Ultra Pellets, or any other eligible supplement in SmartPaks, your horse will be able to enroll in our free $15,000 colic surgery reimbursement ColiCare program. This will give you peace of mind through your travels knowing you’ll have financial resources if needed.

Depending on how your horse typically handles stress, you may also want to talk with your vet about going one step further and giving UlcerGuard, which is omeprazole – an FDA-approved medication to prevent ulcers. This can be a worthwhile conversation as some horses can be sensitive to change and need extra support.

Multi-Purpose Support for Your Horse

The stress of moving barns can impact a variety of areas of your horse’s health other than his digestive tract. To give your horse added support for multiple areas, consider using SmartShip & Show Paste once daily before and after your move. This tasty butterscotch-flavored paste includes probiotics and prebiotics for digestive health, electrolytes to replace the minerals lost in sweat, and the potent antioxidant vitamin C to help protect cells throughout the body from the damaging effects of stress.

Maintain a 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 will have to adapt to a new feeding, turnout, and/or exercise schedule. Try to keep his daily routine the same as best you can and make schedule adjustments slowly.

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. For example, don’t plan on starting a new lesson program or going to a show right after the move.

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.

New Turnout and Herd Dynamics

Two horses by the paddock fence.

Further, the social dynamics of your horse’s pasture mates can be a whole other situation to iron out. If your horse used to go out in a big herd but now is being turned out alone, it’ll be a big adjustment. Try talking with the barn manager and other boarders to see if you can find a suitable social group for your horse (based on age, size, personality, etc.). Of course, always be very careful when introducing your horse to his barn-mates.

The information provided in the Horsemanship Library is based solely on our SmartPak authors' opinions. SmartPak strongly encourages you to consult your veterinarian or equine professionals regarding specific questions about your horse's health, care, or training. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease or behavior and is purely educational.

Originally published November 25, 2014