Travel Documents for Your Horse

Updated July 27, 2023
A woman leading a horse to a horse trailer

Reduce the Red Tape and Travel Smarter

Whether it’s a short distance or a long trip, you’ve got a lot to think about any time you haul your horse. Getting all the right tests done and paperwork filled out may seem like a lot of extra time and money. However, there are some very good reasons why these examinations and documents are required. In this article, you’ll find out what you need to travel and why.

What Travel Documents Your Horse Needs

There are three broad categories of travel:

  • Intrastate
  • Interstate
  • International

While travel abroad is beyond the scope of this article, we will cover papers your horse will need for domestic travel. Depending on your reason for travel and your final destination, you may need the same kind of documentation for intrastate travel (travel within the state of origin) that is required for interstate travel (travel outside the state of origin).

Papers Required for Intrastate Travel

If you are trailering your horse to a competition, more than likely the show officials will ask to see a copy of your horse’s negative Coggins test, the most commonly used means of finding antibody to the equine infectious anemia (EIA) virus.

If you are transporting a horse to an auction, the facility may require that each horse be accompanied by a health certificate form, also known as a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI). These certificates, which attest that the horse exhibits no obvious signs of disease on the day of inspection and are signed by your veterinarian, are generally good for 30 days, although some are limited to just 72 hours. The time frame a certificate of veterinary inspection may be valid may change depending on the current disease situation in the area or in the United States.

Vaccinations for Traveling to Competition

If you’re traveling to compete at a US Equestrian-recognized show, you can expect management to ask you for proof of compliance with Equine Vaccination Rule GR845. This rule states that horses over 7 months old entering the grounds of Federation licensed shows must have documentation of Equine Influenza Virus and Equine Herpes Virus vaccinations within 6 months prior to entering the stables. Read your show organization’s most recent rulebook to see what vaccines they may require your horse have before stepping onto the show grounds.

Documents Required for Interstate Travel

two horses in the trailer

What changes when you want to travel with your horse outside your own state? Not only is a negative EIA test required for entry into all 50 states, but it must also be performed at an accredited laboratory (your veterinarian will know which laboratories are EIA-approved). Your vet must be accredited with the United States Department of Agriculture to complete the EIA Test Chart (Coggins form). They will be able to tell you if your destination state requires this test to be performed within 12 months of entry, within 6 months, or within the calendar year.

All states require that a health certificate accompany horses entering their borders (with some exceptions that will be pointed out later). Some require that the horse’s body temperature on the day of examination be recorded on the health certificate, while others require specific statements about the current status of a specific disease, and a few even require proof of specific vaccinations or additional testing. Your veterinarian is obligated to submit the health certificate to the state veterinarian’s office in the state of origin and the state of destination.

Transport Requirements that Differ by State

Some states require an entry or import permit.  This is a free document that you or your veterinarian can obtain from the state of your final destination by phone or online. A word of advice for both these documents: include every stop you will be making in the state to avoid any problems.

Horse owners in certain states have an alternative method of complying with interstate health requirements with an Extended Equine Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (eeCVI). This certificate is valid for 6 months and is also known as an “equine passport” or “extended validity CVI.” It requires the vet to conduct an initial exam and verification of a current negative EIA Test. Before each time traveling, the horse owner is responsible for entering the information online to obtain the eeCVI movement document.

Finally, even if your horse doesn’t have a brand, he may still need to undergo a brand inspection to establish proof of ownership. Contact a state brand inspector through your state department of agriculture of state police if you live in a western state.  Frequent travelers should inquire about a Lifetime Brand Inspection Certificate, available in some states.

Why You Need Documents to Transport Your Horse

A horse in blanket loading onto a trailer.

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) accredits veterinarians to carry out these and other services. Local veterinarians work with their state veterinarian and the Area Veterinarian-in-Charge (AVIC) to protect the health and well-being of both you and your horse by preventing, controlling, and eradicating animal disease. In recent years, state and federal animal regulations have protected the United States equine industry from vesicular stomatitis, screwworm, piroplasmosis, and West Nile Encephalitis.

Just because you do not travel internationally, or even interstate with your horse, doesn’t mean you are safe from the effects of foreign (or not-so-foreign) animal diseases. Even if your horse does not come into direct contact with a sick horse that has traveled extensively, once any horse shows signs of a reportable disease for that state, equine transportation from that location and sometimes even from that state may be shut down.

On the Equine Disease Communication Center website, owners can sign up for alerts about outbreaks of diseases such as Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1) and learn where quarantines are required. Complying with our country’s disease prevention requirements helps keep our national equine industry healthy and active.

Finally, complying with animal transport requirements not only serves to protect your horse and the horses she comes into contact with, but it also lays an excellent paper trail should there be any question of your horse’s disease status. Once you have all of your horse’s paperwork, put it all together in a folder so that you have it organized and on hand in case you need it during your trip or when you arrive at your destination.

Learn more tips for safe travel with your horse from SmartPak’s Horsemanship Library.

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 June 15, 2012